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Haagen-Dazs gift to support Penn State honeybee research

As the pollination season approaches in Pennsylvania and the Northeast, scientists at Penn State and elsewhere continue to seek answers to the decline of the nation's honeybees and other pollinators, which are critical to the production of $15 billion worth of crops in the United States. To assist in this effort, a major ice cream brand has stepped up to support honeybee research and education.

Haagen-Dazs has announced a gift of $150,000 toward honeybee-related programs in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. The college has taken a lead role in investigating the cause or causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious ailment that has decimated honeybee colonies across the country over the last 18 months.

Haagen-Dazs also will contribute $100,000 to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.

The donations are part of the company's "Haagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees" consumer education campaign aimed at generating awareness among ice cream lovers about the dire situation facing managed and wild pollinators and what can be done to help.

"Haagen-Dazs ice cream is made from the finest all-natural ingredients, and the plight of the honeybee could mean many of the ingredients used in our top flavors, like Vanilla Swiss Almond and Strawberry, would be difficult to source," said Haagen-Dazs brand manager Josh Gellert.

Diana Cox-Foster, Penn State professor of entomology and co-chair of a national working group of CCD researchers, said Haagen-Dazs' contribution will allow Penn State to purchase two expensive pieces of equipment that will enable faster processing of samples and aid in the molecular detection and identification of viruses, pesticides and other substances potentially harmful to honeybees and other pollinators.

The gift also will support training of graduate and undergraduate students by providing small grants for student research on bee-related topics. "With these grants, students will be able to expand the scope of their projects beyond what otherwise would have been possible," she said.

Haagen-Dazs also has created the Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Bee Board, an advisory group of university scientists and other beekeeping experts that will provide information on research findings and help develop educational materials for the public.

"This effort is taking a page from the beehive, where all the individuals play a role to make the hive successful," said Bee Board member Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Penn State senior extension associate and acting state apiarist for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. "In this case, we have university and government scientists, the beekeeping industry, and now a major food-industry partner all making contributions to solve serious challenges to pollinator health."

VanEngelsdorp says the outreach component of the Haagen-Dazs program is important for generating awareness and support. "It's critical that the public understand that the honeybee is a keystone species that is an indicator of environmental health," he said, noting that the gift will support development of an online, native-bee photo identification catalog for the Mid-Atlantic region to help people recognize pollinators when they encounter them.

Public education also will be served by the creation of educational programs to be delivered by Penn State Master Gardeners, who will instruct homeowners and gardeners on establishing pollinator friendly plantings.

"Loss of habitat and flowering plants is an important factor in the decline of pollinators," said Bee Board member Robert Berghage, Penn State associate professor of horticulture. "By growing 'bee gardens,' individuals can contribute to pollinator health by providing the food sources these insects need to survive and thrive."

Berghage added that the Haagen-Dazs funding will help support Penn State research on "green roof" technology, which can be used to create rooftop bee habitat as well as provide benefits for energy efficiency and stormwater management.

Haagen-Dazs also announced the launch of a new flavor this spring, Vanilla Honey Bee. A portion of proceeds from sales of the new flavor, as well as from all honeybee-affected flavors in the brand's product line -- indicated by special labeling on the package -- will go towards helping honeybees.

"Honey used in the new flavor will be U.S.-produced honey from clover fields in North and South Dakota processed by Dutch Gold, based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania," noted Cox-Foster.


Contact: Chuck Gill
Penn State

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