Jennifer Berry: Apicultural Research Coordinator and Lab Manager at the University of Georgia

Jennifer Berry: Apicultural Research Coordinator and Lab Manager at the University of Georgia

Jennifer Berry’s “full time” job is Apicultural Research Coordinator and Lab Manager at the University of Georgia. She’s actively involved in all aspects of honey bee research and education for the state of Georgia. Her primary areas of research have been a queen breeding program and Integrated Pest Management work for varroa mite control. The breeding project is a long term program in which resistant stock is continually selected for as well as traits for honey production, brood production and gentleness.

Jennifer travels extensively and speaks to local, state, national and international beekeeping associations. She was 2006 President of the Eastern Apicultural Society and successfully held that year’s meeting in Young Harris, Georgia. She writes a monthly article for Bee Culture magazine.

Jennifer’s “other” job is owner and operator of Honey Pond Farm, previously known as The Queenery, which is a small queen and nuc operation which specializes in quality queens and healthy bees.

B.S., 1997, University of Georgia, Entomology
M.S., 2000, University of Georgia, Entomology

In her own words:

Twenty years ago a new chapter in my life was about to be written. I had stumbled into a beekeeping class taught by my soon to be major professor, Dr. Keith Delaplane. After the 1st class I knew honey bees would be in my life forever, and thank God they are.

During my graduate years at UGA I focused my research on practical, applied ideas that had gained what we call “arm chair theory” status. Beekeepers believed in this or that but numerous ideas had never been challenged, experimentally that is.

The first project I focused on was whether old comb had detrimental effects on overall colony health and production. There have been numerous other projects over the years that followed, especially after I was offered a full time research position at the UGA bee lab in 2000.

Bees and beekeepers (commercial to backyard) face a whole host of issues today that just didn’t exist 30 years ago. One of the major reasons for this change is varroa. Because of this exotic, parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, honey bees have been on the brink of extinction for years now. Reason? Apis mellifera, (the European honey bee), has no natural defense mechanism or behavioral trait to combat varroa. Apis ceranae (Asian honey bee) is the natural host for varroa and hence the two have evolved over centuries and formed a host-parasite equilibrium. In other words, the Asian bees can tolerate varroa infestation but not our European race. In the early years, chemical treatments (miticides) were the only method known to control varroa. But over time, researchers and beekeepers have developed a whole host of different pest management strategies which have dramatically reduced or eliminated chemical use completely. This is good news since there is mounting evidence of sub-lethal effects on queens, drones and bees from the use of these very chemicals.

Over the past decade more attention has been focused on integrating an array of pest management scenarios in order to reduce or eliminate the use of harsh chemicals. One such method is selecting stock with behavioral traits (grooming or hygienic behavior) that has proven to be beneficial in the bee’s ability to tolerate varroa infestation.

Varroa mites are not going away, and hopefully bees won’t either. But as time marches on, bees are becoming more tolerant of mites and hence less reliant on chemicals for control.

For more information please contact Jennifer Berry at: