Stories tagged Marla Spivak

Since everyone seems to be buzzing with talk about bees, I thought it would be a good time to mention that bee expert Marla Spivak from the University of Minnesota will be giving a talk on Honey Bees & Human Health at Cafe Scientifique this Tuesday night. In 2005 Marla answered all sorts of questions as a Scientist on the Spot for Science Buzz. Since then she has continued to research Honey Bees in an effort to find out more about how we can help keep them healthy. After all, our own health depends on it! Marla is also part of a research team that is exploring the potential of a bee made substance called propolis to help fight HIV in humans. If you are in the Twin Cities and want to ask Marla a question in person, you should come out on Tuesday night!


University of Minnesota professor Marla Spivak studies honeybees. She's fighting a parasite that has killed up to half of all North American bees in the last year.

Spivak leads a bee-breeding program that produces queen bees that remove larvae infested with Varroa sp. mites from their hives. (The mites suck blood from the bees, especially developing ones, weakening them and shortening their lifespan. Infested emerging bees may be missing wings and legs. And an untreated infestation can kill an entire honeybee colony.)

Humans used two chemicals against the mites for years, but the mites have recently become resistant to both and have made a big comeback, destroying honeybee colonies across the country. But beekeepers using Spivak's queen bees have experienced only minor losses.

Don't think humans depend on bees? Think again. Honeybees pollinate about a third of our diet and dozens of agricultural crops. The mite problem affects even the dairy industry, since the cattle feed crops alfalfa and clover are honeybee pollinated, not wind pollinated like most grasses.

Many, many "pest" species are developing resistance to the chemicals we use to control them. Do you worry about this trend? Do you see alternatives to chemical pest control? Would you be willing to pay more for food products that are chemical free?