A longitudinal experiment demonstrates that honey bee colonies managed organically are as healthy and productive as those managed conventionally

Robyn M. Underwood, Brooke L. Lawrence, Nash E. Turley, Lizzette D. Cambron-Kopco, Parry M. Kietzman, Brenna E. Traver, Margarita M. López-Uribe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Honey bee colony management is critical to mitigating the negative effects of biotic and abiotic stressors. However, there is significant variation in the practices implemented by beekeepers, which results in varying management systems. This longitudinal study incorporated a systems approach to experimentally test the role of three representative beekeeping management systems (conventional, organic, and chemical-free) on the health and productivity of stationary honey-producing colonies over 3 years. We found that the survival rates for colonies in the conventional and organic management systems were equivalent, but around 2.8 times greater than the survival under chemical-free management. Honey production was also similar, with 102% and 119% more honey produced in conventional and organic management systems, respectively, than in the chemical-free management system. We also report significant differences in biomarkers of health including pathogen levels (DWV, IAPV, Vairimorpha apis, Vairimorpha ceranae) and gene expression (def-1, hym, nkd, vg). Our results experimentally demonstrate that beekeeping management practices are key drivers of survival and productivity of managed honey bee colonies. More importantly, we found that the organic management system—which uses organic-approved chemicals for mite control—supports healthy and productive colonies, and can be incorporated as a sustainable approach for stationary honey-producing beekeeping operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6072
JournalScientific reports
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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