At The Best Bees Company, we know that honey bees are endlessly fascinating creatures. Beyond the captivating intricacies of their colony system and the delicious honey byproduct they produce, honey bees are also uniquely vital to our natural surroundings.
As pollinators of more than 100 fruit and vegetable crops in the United States, honey bees are an integral contributor to a sustainable natural environment.
And yet, honey bees are dying at an alarming rate. Owing to disease, mounting exposure to pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, as well as continued habitat loss, honey bee colonies throughout the world are suffering unprecedented devastation. This decline is one of the single greatest threats to our natural environment today.
Our mission is to raise funding for our research to improve bee health. The research projects range widely, and involve the collaborative efforts of our staff beekeepers, multiple Ph.D.’s, and student research interns. We also regularly collaborate with outside laboratories in both academia and industry, and within the United States as well as abroad.
In 2015, the Urban Beekeeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary split from The Best Bees Company, to become an official 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. The Urban Beekeeping Laboratory focuses on basic science research. These focus on testing hypotheses to better understand the natural world, as it pertains to bees. They are now launching an innovative new public-private partnership linking corporate sponsored honey beehives with communities in need of access to ample pollinators. Download our one-page overview here.
The Best Bees Company now focuses on applied research and development projects. These projects focus on how to develop new technologies to improve bee health.
Two observation hives at Harvard University.
Basic Science Research at the Urban Beekeeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary:
- Urban Ecology: Our data from the past five years have shown that honey bees in urban environments produce more honey and survive the winters at higher rates than outside the cities. Why is this? The variables we plan to measure to investigate the urban beekeeping advantage include: height, pesticide levels, temperature, available forage, hive position, pests, and pathogens.
- Alzheimer’s hypothesis, grant-grant ideas: for the nonprofit, ask for a microtome to splice bee brains and look at mushroom body changes after exposure to varying levels of pesticides
- Propolis: This bee product, also known as bee glue, contains anti-microbial properties known to prevent disease. What is propolis made of, exactly? How is propolis being used to benefit human health? Can propolis production be naturally ramped up?
- Apitherapy: This paper presents a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of honey bee-based products that can be used to treat health problems and promote general well-being for the global human population. Ultimately, the promotion of scientific data supporting the use of bee products would be helpful in establishing more nature-based treatments in the healthcare field.
- Immunology: What cellular and humoral (non-cellular) aspects of the bee immune system contribute to the ability of bees to resist infection? The different types of blood cells of bees remains to be studied. This is a vitally important aspect of bee biology, and so much more needs to be understood. How does immune function vary across bee species? The honey bee genome suggests that this species has fewer immune-related genes than solitary insects.
- Evolution: How does immune function vary across levels of sociality? Bees are a unique model system with which we can test hypotheses related to the evolution of sociality and disease resistance.
Applied science research
at The Best Bees Company:
- Vaccine development: One way to develop vaccines is to grow the pathogen in the laboratory, and then create a non-lethal mixture with which to feed bees. Our preliminary data indicate that this method may confer protection to bees against disease.
- Probiotics: Beneficial microbes are known to up regulate the immune function of honey bees. We are working to translate those laboratory data into a product that can be used for all beekeepers in the field.
- Native bee habitat: Research has shown that the nearly 4,000 native species of bees are doing much more work with pollinating our food crops than we are giving them credit for. Our team is studying new types of habitats to promote these other bee species, to help increase their populations.