Jenifer Walke, assistant professor of biology, has been researching the microbes (the bacteria and fungi) associated with honey bees and the impact they have on their health.
Walke, a new faculty member to Eastern Washington University, has been working with the local beekeeping community, who provided samples for her research. Together, they have been working with the urban gardening community to discuss what kind of plants should be planted in the area to support the health of the bees.
“Honeybees are threatened with a variety of factors right now,” said Walke. “There’s poor nutrition because they don’t have access to good and diverse food sources. There’s also various weather patterns that can impact the bees negatively and diseases from pests and parasites…all of these factors are threatening honey bees, but honey bees are very important for the pollination of a lot of critical crops, fruits, nuts and many of the vegetables we rely on for food security.”
“Beekeeping is the livelihood for a lot of people and so when they lose a hive that’ll cost a couple hundred dollars just in replacement costs for the hive itself, in addition to lost pollination income,” Walke said.
Ultimately, Walke has a specific call-to-action in mind for EWU.
“One of our goals is to make Eastern Washington University a bee-friendly campus and Cheney a bee-friendly city,” said Walke. “Without bees there’s definitely an issue for food security and sustainability, and it’s important to understand why honey bees are threatened and how we can potentially mitigate these threats to promote bee health.”
Beyond her research, Walke is currently in the process of bringing a bee festival to EWU. Walke’s student researchers and the local beekeeping association are aiding in the festival preparation.
“It’s going to be a celebration of bees and bee products,” said Walke. “We’re hoping to have a mead tasting. It’s kind of like a wine, but it’s made from honey. We’re in the early stages for planning, but it should be a fun and informative event for beekeepers and the general public.”
Scheduled for next February, Walke and colleagues are aiming to include departments outside of the biology department for their involvement and participation.
See more of Jenifer Walke’s research.