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Marla Spivak

Honey bee researcher

Dr. Marla Spivak is a MacArthur Fellow and Distinguished McKnight Professor and Extension Entomologist in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota. Her research efforts focus on honey bee social immunity, behavioral mechanisms of disease resistance, and on how agricultural landscapes affect the health and biodiversity of bee pollinators. Her extension programs offer personalized assistance to commercial and backyard beekeepers to keep bees healthy.

A news release dated September 28, 2010 of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation says.........

"Giving details of the 2010 Fellows, the Foundation says of Dr. Spivak: "Marla Spivak is an entomologist who is developing practical applications to protect honey bee populations from decimation by disease while making fundamental contributions to our understanding of bee biology. Essential to healthy ecosystems and to the agricultural industry as pollinators of a third of the United States' food supply, honey bees have been disappearing at alarming rates in recent years due to the accumulated effects of parasitic mites, viral and bacterial diseases, and exposure to pesticides. To mitigate these threats, Spivak's research focuses on genetically influenced behaviors that confer disease resistance to entire colonies through the social interactions of thousands of workers. Her studies of hygienic behavior -- the ability of certain strains of bees to detect and remove infected pupae from their hives -- have enabled her to breed more disease-resistant strains of bees for use throughout the beekeeping industry. Spivak's "Minnesota Hygienic" line of bees offers an effective and more sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides in fighting a range of pests and pathogens, including the Varroa mite, a highly destructive parasite that spreads rapidly through Western honey bee colonies. By translating her scientific findings into accessible presentations, publications, and workshops, she is leading beekeepers throughout the United States to establish local breeding programs that increase the frequency of hygienic traits in the general bee populations. With additional investigations into the antimicrobial effects of bee-collected plant resins under way, Spivak continues to explore additional methods of limiting disease transmission and improving the health of one of the world's most important pollinators."