1.) Conduct research on general pollinator health and recovery. [NP305, Component 2, Problem Statements 2A, 2B, 2C] 2.) Conduct research aimed at restoring critical pollinator habitat. [NP305, Component 2, Problem Statement 2A] 3.) Generate economic revitalization through beekeeping and STEM focused programming for Appalachian youth. [NP305, Component 2, Problem Statements 2A, 2B, 2C]
Objective 1: Center staff will manage queen bee breeding and research program to survey and identify genetic material for a locally adapted pest-resistant strain of honey bee. Center staff will collect and review data on hundreds of honey bee hives in central Appalachia from more than 100 individual beekeepers as well as the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective’s own extensive breeding apiary. These data also will provide quantification of best practices as well as important baseline data for our research and breeding programs. Development of beekeeping practices that limit or eliminate antibotics and synthetic chemicals will also be pursued. Objective 2: We will quantify pollinator usage of and preference for native plants found in and unique to central Appalachian ecosystems, particularly in forested areas, and utilize them for habitat restoration projects. Center staff will initiate and manage a native plant horticulture program, involving collecting seeds and plant materials from native varietals of pollinator-preferred plant species based on survey work. We will grow those plants at the Center’s facilities (including greenhouse and shade house facilities). These plants will be used in pollinator habitat restoration projects in central Appalachia. The Center will provide this information and other current research outputs to provide regionally specific educational outreach and materials for general public use for planting and restoring critical pollinator habitat throughout the region. Objective 3: The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective program, an economic development program, will provide expertise and programs for local people in Central Appalachia to learn beekeeping. This program will provide bees, hive boxes, equipment, continuing education, and support for new beekeepers. This program will also provide STEM educational instruction focused on pollinators and beekeeping for youth. Programs include classroom-based activities throughout the school year as well as through Camp Waldo, an annual residential summer camp for 4th-7th graders.
For Objective 1, we are collecting honeybee colony health data from hundreds of hives across southern West Virginia and Virginia. We have approximately 850 hives across the region. We collect data points on factors including queen’s brood patterns, size of brood chambers, queen source, queen age, hive temperament, anticipated honey production, actual hive honey production, and hive treatments. These data help inform several decisions, including which hives to use for the genetic stock for queen rearing and which partners to help with apiary expansion. They also provide information about the efficacy of natural beekeeping methods, treatment methods, and patterns of disease and growth within the region. We also preserve data so other tests and comparisons can be performed over the years, both by our staff and other scientists. For Objective 2, we have developed two large-scale mined land restoration sites in Raleigh and Fayette counties, known as the Mammoth Preserve. The other is a high elevation red spruce forest in the Monongahela National Forest. We have conducted monthly pollinator research surveys at the Mammoth site and are developing relationships with scientists to expand this program. We have also developed a native plant nursery program, including several native plant gardens, two green houses, and a shade house. We are developing an education center at the site of these pollinator gardens, which will host lab space and classroom space, and provide opportunities for community science programming focused on pollinators and native ecosystems. We intend this educational site will be completed this year. For Objective 3, the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective program, a training and support program for partner beekeepers in central Appalachia, has supported approximately 200 partner beekeepers over the last several years. We currently have 110 active partners. Hundreds more have taken our free beekeeping classes. Last year, the Collective produced approximately 23,000 pounds of honey. Additionally, our staff conduct regular pollinator educational programming for children around the region in classrooms, through virtual programs, and during our summer camp program, Camp Waldo. Camp Waldo hosts more than 100 children each year for several weeks of pollinator and native ecosystem programming.