UNCG researchers advance bee science and policy, so hives and humans can thrive


A faculty-student team explore how microbiomes impact bee health

Bees have a big following. With superorganism status and a queen-based structure, they’ve captured the minds and hearts of countless scientists, artists, and hobbyists.

It’s not only bees’ behavior that fascinates humans: they are also essential to our food supply.

Across the United States, bees pollinate an estimated 130 fruits and vegetables, which amounts to a value of about $18 billion annually, according to the USDA. Within North Carolina alone, bees’ pollination of a variety of crops, from peaches to peanuts, equates to about $186 million dollars, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

But not everything is peachy with bees.

The essential organism faces serious threats, including parasites, pathogens, poor nutrition, and the mysterious colony collapse disorder. From April 2021 to April 2022 alone, the Bee Informed Partnership estimates that over one-third of bee colonies were lost. 

 Bee researchers at UNCG are part of worldwide efforts to better understand bees and help them, and the organisms that depend on them, thrive.

Dr. Kasie Raymann and Dr. Kaira Wagoner work out of UNCG’s Plant and Pollinator Center, a new research, training, and public engagement facility focused on connections in nature that underpin human health and wellness, the foods we eat, and the environment in which we live.

With impacts in foundational science, entrepreneurship, and national policy, these researchers are using a team-based, cross-disciplinary approach to benefit the hive – both bee and human.

Some people dream about being scientists. Others aspire to be business owners. To use her findings to do good, Dr. Kaira Wagoner has decided to be both.

Learn how she and UNCG alum Phoebe Snyder have turned findings about bee behavior into a product that can benefit beekeepers.

Dr. Kasie Raymann’s lab specializes in bee microbiomes. The research, which aids bees and provides insight into fundamental processes in humans, has taken unexpected turns – including an exciting discovery by grad student Lexi Hoopman.

Explore their findings on honey bee reproductive health and the negative impacts of common hive treatments. 

Probiotics may be popular, but are they effective? Graduate student Megan Damico is investigating probiotic use by beekeepers – and taking her findings from the lab to the real world as a science advocate.

This article will appear in print in Spring 2023
Story by Rachel Damiani, PhD
Photography by Bert Vanderveen and Jiyoung Park

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