UTRGV associate professor works to preserve honey bees
Honey bees play an vital role in the agricultural economy of South Texas and a Rio Grande Valley professor has embarked on research that could help combat losses of these important pollinators.
Dr. Joanne Rampersad-Ammons, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, spent time this summer studying apiculture (bee keeping) and issues affecting honey bee health, thanks to a fellowship she received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“My bee research began as a hobby. But it grew into a research focus due to the extraordinarily high losses of honey bees nationally, and the lack of research in this area after the closure of the USDA Honey Bee Research Lab in Weslaco,” Rampersad-Ammons says. “Also, with our very short winters and the abundance of honey mesquite, I think that a vibrant cottage industry may be possible here.”
Rampersad-Ammons was one of five educators nationwide to receive a 2017 E. Kika de la Garza Science Fellowship sponsored by the USDA.
Her two-week USDA research internship, June 24 to July 8, was at the Honey Bee Lab in Baton Rouge, La. Here, she learned about honey bee husbandry, disease diagnostics, breeding and artificial insemination.
Honey bees are integral to pollinating many agricultural crops to ensure fruit set, she said.
“It has often been said that one of every three bites of food we eat is a result of pollinators like honey bees. Yet nationally, honey bee losses over the past several years are staggering,” she says. “Locally, several issues, such as Varroa mite infestation or small hive beetles, plague beekeepers in the area which if left untreated will severely damage their colonies or kill them.”