UMass researcher seeing whether sunflowers can save bee population

Bee populations have been dying off over last 30 years

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – A University of Massachusetts biology professor has been awarded a federal grant to study how one flower may be improving the health of local bees.

Sunflowers could be the plant that keeps honeybees and bumblebees healthy, especially now that the number of bees is declining.

Biology professor Lynn Adler was awarded $1 million from the USDA to study how sunflower pollen could help local bees fight off pathogens. Adler will be working with farmers, beekeepers, and dozens of UMass students over the next three years on the project.

Their goal is to use the research to help the USDA improve pollinator health over the next 10 years.

“There are already a lot of people looking at pesticides, or looking at availability of total forage in the habitat, but there really wasn’t anyone thinking about what are the roles that different plants can play,” Adler said.

According to the USDA, bee populations have died-off over the last 30 years for several reasons, including pesticides, climate change, and inadequate food. More than 40% of all bee populations died in 2015.