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Local scientist awarded grant to study honeybees

Frank Turner

Since 1907, the Hettinger Research Extension Center has been guiding agricultural research projects, helping producers achieve new levels of success with each passing day. This year, the research center is breaking into a new area of agriculture research, honeybees.
The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program recently awarded local Range and Wildlife Scientist Benjamin Geaumont a highly competitive grant for $199,922 to explore new research in honeybees.
“We have never done any bee work at the research center,” said Geaumont. “This is our first project at the research center that is specific to honeybees.”
The project, “Examining the Role of Shelterbelts (Tree Plantings) on Early-Season Honey Production and Hive Growth of Honeybees in the North Central Region,” looks to answer new questions on how honeybees are using shelterbelts and flowering trees as a food source early in the year.
“When honeybees first comeback to North Dakota in mid-May, it’s a food desert,” said Geaumont. “There are just not enough flowering plants at that time.”
To compensate for the lack of food, beekeepers have to continually “key into flowering trees” to provide a food source for their bees. Geaumont said that he thought up the research project after observing his own tree belt outside of Hettinger. Geaumont recounted seeing his flowering trees full of bees in the early spring.
“At the time, I thought these flowering trees must be really important to native pollinators and honeybees as well,” he said.
After contacting local beekeeper Alan Timm, owner of T2 Honey, and research experts in Fargo, Geaumont created his grant proposal.
Specifically, the project will seek to investigate unknown questions about the role of these trees and how they affect honeybees. Some of the goals the project looks to answer include finding the importance of flowering trees, identifying which trees are important, and recognizing what configuration of tree planting is optimal for honeybees.
“We don’t really know the answers to these questions,” he said. “It’s all kind of new for us.”
Geaumont said he hopes his research could strengthen local honey production by helping make bees healthier during the early spring so they are more prepared for making honey later in the year.
“Maybe in the future we can use this data and help guide future tree plantings based on this research,” said Geaumont. “Bees everywhere, not just honeybees, but pollinators are struggling right now, so this research is timely from a health standpoint for bees as well.”

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