The Honey Bee Initiative
A joint partnership between the School of Business and the College of Science

Mason Hives Abuzz with Research

Va tech at hbi
Researchers from Virginia Tech sample hives at the HBI apiary

The Mason Honey Bee Initiative (HBI) was active this summer with a variety of hive-related research. These research projects are designed to explore indicators of bee health and provide valuable information to research groups working at the local, state and national levels.

First, at the national level, the HBI has been named a Tier Four, or key contributor to the Sentinel Hive Project conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership out of the University of Maryland. On Mason’s Fairfax campus, eight hives are being monitored for general hive health and diseases, and the results become part of the national database and used for comparison with hives in other regions.

Kathleen Curtis, associate director of the HBI said, “Not only is it a great opportunity to be included in this critical research, but preliminary results show that our hives are healthy and our bees are doing exceedingly well.”

More information on this nationwide project can be found at

Trap PlacementNext, at the local level, HBI director German Perilla has designed and crafted bee-friendly traps to collect pollen from the bees’ pollen baskets (corbicula) located on the bees’ legs. The team is drawing pollen samples to monitor the variety of pollens gathered and analyze the pesticide content within the pollen. The sampling is being conducted in four locations: two within Fairfax County, and one each in Warren County at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, and in Loudoun County at the Farm at Sunnyside.

Pesticide analysis is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Thomas Huff, assistant director of the Shared Instrumentation Facility at Mason’s Science and Technology Campus in Prince William County. In addition to identifying the types of pesticides bees encounter at each location, the team also hopes to determine if the level of pesticide present in the pollen relates to the general health of a particular hive.

Finally, at the state level, the HBI is participating in research with Virginia Tech by sending samples of hive products including wax, bee bread and the bees themselves for analysis. Samples are taken from the same four sites located across Fairfax, Loudoun and Warren counties. The purpose of this research is to study bee health as indicated by hive products, and contribute to state-wide data collection with the goal of creating a solid base to understand the different threats and impacts that bees face in Virginia.

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