STONEVILLE, Miss. (WJTV) – Delta Agricultural Weather Center stations typically record historical weather data and help growers make production decisions. Now, they’re a key component of a new honeybee study at Mississippi State University (MSU).

Esmaeil Amiri, an assistant professor of apiculture with the MSU Extension Service and researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, is using the facilities and datasets provided by the weather center for his research team’s study on the effect of weather on honeybee health.

The center, which features 37 fixed weather stations and various mobile stations for crop variety trials, is located at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville.

“Honeybee activities highly depend on climate conditions. Rainfall, low temperature and high winds are all known to restrict honeybee foraging activities,” Amiri said. “In recent years, poor weather in spring and summer, when colonies are highly active, has been a challenge for beekeepers and possibly led to increased pathogens in honeybee colonies and caused colony mortality.

Amiri said his team’s long-term goal is to use the data from the Delta Agricultural Weather Center to find out how long- and short-term climate change can impact honeybee health in respect to pests and pathogens.

The small hive beetle is an invasive insect that originated in sub-Saharan Africa and became established in the U.S. in 1996. This insect causes considerable damage to the honeybee colonies and apicultural industry in the South.

“The small hive beetle has the potential to expand its habitat to the other parts of the country due to the recent global warming,” Amiri said. “It is crucial to perform interdisciplinary research to understand the effect of weather and climate warming on the prevalence and expansion of the pest and pathogens in honeybee colonies.”

Amiri, who joined MSU earlier this year, said the Mississippi Delta is an ideal place for his research activities.

“The Delta is an intensive agricultural area, and a favorite place for beekeepers to move and locate their colonies in the Delta for honey production. While collecting nectar from different crops, honeybees play an important role to pollinate our crops. However, in such an intensive agricultural area, honeybees are exposed to different environmental stresses including pesticides, pathogens and climate change,” he said.