China invests two times as much as USA on honey bee research [version 1; referees: awaiting peer review]

December 21, 2015

From: F1000Research

Xianbing Xie1-3, Shudong Luo4Zachary Huang2


Honey bees are in no doubt the most beneficial insects to humans due to their widespread use for pollination of our crops. In this paper we compare the recent investment into honey bee research in China and USA. We show that China has invested more heavily into honey bee research than USA since 2007.  The recent funding increase promised by the White House Pollinator Task Force, hopefully, will reduce the funding gap between the two countries.


It is well known that honey bees (Apis mellifera in North America and Europe, but also A. cerana in Asia) are the most beneficial insects to humans due to the pollination services they provide to our fruits and vegetables (Gallai et al., 2009). The most recent estimated value of honey bees in the US was $15 billion per year (Morse & Calderone, 2000). This is likely underestimated: in Michigan alone, the value of fruits and vegetables that resulted from honey bee pollination was close to 1 billion per year (, after adjusting for the honey bee dependency factor of each crop. For example, soybean only increases 10% of its yield after honey bee pollination, so only 10% of the total production value was used for this calculation.

Funding in China

In the following discussion, we show that the US lagged behind China in governmental investment in honey bee research. China does not seem to have suffered from the same Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that the US has endured since the fall of 2006 (Cox-Foster et al., 2007). The most recent survey conducted by Vander (Vander Zee et al., 2012) found annual colony loss in China was below 10%. Yet, since 2008, China has invested much more than the US in honey bee research. In their Earmarked Fund for Chinese Modern Agro-industry Technology Research System, (shortened as CARS [sic]), a chief scientist, Jie Wu was chosen, who then assembled a team of 19 additional scientists nationwide (Wu, 2009). These scientists were organized into 6 laboratories, though most members in each laboratory were not located at the same institution (Table 1). A total of $19 million USD has been granted to these scientists since 2008. In addition, 21 honey-bee-specific experimental stations were funded at a slightly lower level with a total of $10.2 million USD across the two funding periods (Table 2). An independent project for pear pollination in northern China was funded for 15 million RMB (~$2.5 million USD), also by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (personal communication). This was directed by Youquan Shao in Shanxi, who also receives funds from CARS (#5 in Table 2). He was specifically instructed to help farmers use honey bees for pear pollination instead of hand pollination, which was common in some northern provinces of China (Ya et al., 2003).

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