Beekeeping has long been a passion for Marla Spivak, an internationally renowned entomologist and expert on honeybee health. Spivak, who is currently a Distinguished McKnight Professor in Entomology at the University of Minnesota, recently received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "genius award" for her pioneering work to protect honeybees from decimation by disease.
One of Spivak's most practical accomplishments has been the breeding of the Minnesota Hygienic, a strain of bees that uses olfaction to "sniff out" infected pupae and remove them from the hive before they can spread disease to the rest of the colony. In addition to supporting her research, the MacArthur award has enabled Spivak to launch the Bee Squad, a program that educates, trains and assists beekeepers and bee supporters in the Twin Cities area. Her goal is to restore healthy bee populations and pollinator landscapes by providing hands-on mentoring to people interested in supporting bees.
During her undergraduate studies at HSU, Spivak took a semester off to volunteer with Steve Taber, a renowned honeybee researcher. Taber ignited Spivak's interest in studying bees, and as soon as she completed her degree, she traveled to South America to conduct bee research. Since then, her groundbreaking research has taken her around the world and earned her numerous accolades.