MSU researchers to share latest on bees at April 18 symposium | TSLN.com

MSU researchers to share latest on bees at April 18 symposium

MSU graduate student Alex McMenamin gently coaxes new Carniolan honey bees into their new home at the MSU Honeybee Research Site and Pollinator Garden. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

BOZEMAN — Montana State University researchers will share their latest bee science at an evening symposium that will include short films and a question and answer session with an expert panel.

The annual Pollinator Symposium will take place at Inspiration Hall in MSU's new Norm Asbjornson Hall on Thursday, April 18, starting at 6 p.m. The event runs until 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

"This symposium is about sharing our ongoing research within the big picture of improving bee health," said Michelle Flenniken, co-director of MSU's Pollinator Health Center and assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology in MSU's College of Agriculture. The event is intended for anyone who is interested in bees and other pollinators, including students and community members, she said.

According to Flenniken, pollinator health is important because more than 70% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce. Many of those plants are fruits, nuts and vegetables. For example, roughly 1.6 million honey bee colonies, each with about 35,000 bees, are required annually to pollinate the California almond crop. The majority of those colonies are trucked to California from around the U.S.; Montana typically contributes more than 100,000 of those colonies.

The symposium will include presentations on honey bees by Flenniken and two doctoral students in her lab, Fenali Parekh and Alex McMenamin. Zoe Pritchard, a master's student in associate professor Michael Ivie's lab, and Will Glenny, a doctoral student in associate professor Laura Burkle's lab, will present research on wild bees. The symposium will end with a question and answer session with the presenters as well as other MSU faculty and the owner of the local Montana Honey Bee Company.

The three films to be shown are a brief video overview of MSU pollinator research, a National Geographic short film about an unconventional scientist who documents and photographs native bees, and a 12-minute film called "Pollinators Under Pressure."

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MSU's Pollinator Health Center brings together faculty from disciplines across MSU as well as expertise from federal and state agencies to examine topics including plant-pollinator biodiversity and ecosystem functionality, the mechanisms of pollinator host–pathogen interactions, pollinator losses and pollinator conservation. Flenniken co-directs the center with Burkle, who is in the Department of Ecology in MSU's College of Letters and Science.

Contact: Michelle Flenniken, flenniken@montana.edu, 406-994-7229. F

–Montana State University