Bayer and Project Apis m. announced they are partnering to sponsor research to improve the health of honey bee colonies in the United States within the next five years.

A multi-year, $1 million research effort, Bayer's Healthy Hives 2020 initiative brought together a diverse group of bee experts to prioritize the most urgent research areas needed to improve the health of U.S. colonies by the end of 2020.

Project Apis m., a non-profit organization dedicated to pollination research, will oversee the administration of the Bayer-funded research grants which are focused on the following major research objectives:

• Conducting an economic assessment of the "true" cost of commercial beekeeping operations to help beekeepers maximize efficiency and production;

• Creating a set of "Best Management Practices" for commercial beekeeping based on definitive colony health performance data;

• Evaluating the use of "smart hive" technology to monitor honey bee colony health during commercial migratory operations; and,

• Assessing honey bee genetics for traits that are relevant to colony resistance to pests and diseases, as well as pollination efficiency and honey production in the United States.

"While the overall number of honey bee colonies continues to increase, they are still being impacted by a wide range of health-related issues," said Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m., Paso Robles, Calif. "In issuing a request for proposals, our goal is to identify scientists and promising research initiatives that can help solve some of the most critical concerns facing beekeepers today."

Proposals should address one or more of the key focus areas and include qualifications of the research team, proposed timelines, deliverables and budget. According to Heintz, the intent is to conduct multi-year investigations with annual reports on progress toward achieving project goals. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m., PST, Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

The new research effort arose out of Bayer's Healthy Hives 2020 initiative, which launched in 2015 with a two-day workshop that brought together some of the nation's leading bee health experts and stakeholders at the Bayer North American Bee Care Center in Research Triangle, North Carolina.

The 17 summit workshop attendees identified a wide range of bee health concerns which were later reviewed by the Healthy Hives 2020 Steering Committee and prioritized into the most promising areas of research that were announced today.

"Today's announcement represents a collaborative effort of some of the country's leading bee health stakeholders including beekeepers, academic researchers, governmental officials and industry representatives," said Dr. Steve Sheppard, professor of entomology and departmental chair at Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, who chairs the Healthy Hives 2020 Steering Committee.

Healthy Hives 2020 is one of several activities of Bayer's North American Bee Care Program. "We have supported and promoted bee health for nearly 30 years," said Dr. David Fischer, director of pollinator safety, Crop Science, a division of Bayer. "Because of the critical role honey bees play in crop pollination, we have long recognized that a vibrant beekeeping industry is vital to maintaining sustainable agriculture."

Other Bayer bee health programs include:

• Establishing the North American Bee Care Center two years ago as a focal point for education, research and collaboration, hosting more than 6,000 visitors;

• Launching Feed a Bee, a major honey bee forage initiative that engaged more than 250,000 consumers last year to distribute seed to plant more than 65 million flowers; and,

• Forming more than 70 partnerships with a wide range of organizations to plant thousands of acres of forage for honey bees.

For more information on Bayer's bee health programs, please visit www.beehealth.bayer.us.