Spivak lab team

Marla Spivak
MacArthur Fellow
Distinguished McKnight Professor
Extension Entomologist

Marla Spivak is a MacArthur Fellow and McKnight Distinguished Professor in Entomology at the University of Minnesota. Recent awards include the 2015 Minnesota AgriGrowth Distinguished Service Award, the 2016 Siehl Prize laureate for excellence in agriculture, and the 2016 Wings WorldQuest Women of Discovery Earth Award. She and Gary Reuter bred a line of honey bees, the Minnesota Hygienic line, to defend themselves against diseases and parasitic mites. Current research includes studies of the benefits of plant resins (propolis) to honey bees, and the effects of agricultural landscapes and pesticides on bee health.

Marla's interest in bees began when she worked for a commercial beekeeper in New Mexico in 1975. She obtained her PhD from the University of Kansas in 1989 on the identification and ecology of Africanized and European honey bees in Costa Rica.  She was a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Insect Science at the University of Arizona before coming to the University of Minnesota in 1993.

Gary Reuter
Scientist, a.k.a. Gary-of-all-trades

A long time hobby beekeeper and trained in technology education, Gary began working with Marla when she moved to Minnesota in 1992. Without his hard work, the program would not be what it is today. He maintains the research colonies, helps train and work with students in the field, designs and builds specialty equipment and speaks to beekeeping, student and civic groups. He plans the Extension short courses and together with Marla teaches beginning as well as experienced beekeepers. His humorous style of teaching helps the classes stay interested and enthusiastic about a sometimes challenging subject. He is a past president of both Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association and Wisconsin Honey Producers Association and director of the American Beekeeping Federation, and remains active in these groups. He still finds time to mange his own colonies, while learning to blacksmith, maintaining an orchard, and helping his wife raise sheep. Gary's Home Page

Current Post-docs

Mike G Photo
Post-doctoral researcher

Bee pathology, Studies on his AmE-711 honey bee cell line, novel methods to control Varroa destructor mites.

  • University of Minnesota; Morris. B.A. in Psychology (Experimental) with Biology minor (1996)
  • Department of Orthopaedic Surgery; University of Minnesota Cancer Research Center; Minneapolis, MN. Research Scientist. (2002-2007)
  • University of Minnesota; Twin Cities. PhD 2015
Mike Wilson Photo

Research Associate

Research Interests: Effects of propolis on bee physiology and disease; resin foraging behavior

PhD, Plant Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota
BA, Double major in Chemistry and Biology, Simpson College

Current Graduate

Morgan Carr-Markell
PhD Student

Honey bee foraging preferences and interactions with restored native prairies

  • B.A. Biological Sciences, with a minor in Women's and Gender Studies, Wellesley College 2010.
  • Masters degree, December 2013, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Advisor: Gene Robinson. Comparing reversal-learning abilities, sucrose responsiveness, and foraging experience in scout and non-scout honey bee (Apis mellifera) foragers.
Hollie D Pic
PhD Student

Investigating the effect of propolis on honey bee health and disease

  • B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology - Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO, 2016
Phoebe Koenig photo
Midwest Tech Transfer Team
Bee Informed Partnership


  • B.S. Entomology, Cornell University, 2016
Katie Lee
PhD Student

Midwest Tech Transfer Team, honey bee health and epidemiology

  • B.S. Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota 2005
  • Masters degree, 2009, University of Minnesota, Advisor: M. Spivak. Developing a standardized sampling plan for the parasitic mite Varroa destructor on honey bees
Margaret Shanahan Profile

PhD Student

Research interests: 

Queen breeding: selecting for propolis collection to improve colony health
james Wolfin picture
MSc Student

Bee pollinator habitat enhancement

B.S. Ecology, 2015, University of Delaware
Development of a Regional Pollen Library to Investigate Foraging patterns in Apis mellifera

Current Technicians

Michelle Vohs
Michelle Vohs Honeybee Lab

Research Scientist

Research Interests:

Michelle started at the Bee Lab in 2014 as an Undergraduate Research Assistant and currently works as a Research Scientist. 

Native Bee Lab: As an undergraduate she worked on a wild bee historical comparison study.  Body lengths of current and historic bees were compared to see if overall bee sizes were changing over time with changes in landscape. She is passionate about wild bees and finding ways to conserve and improve their habitat. https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/187700

Honey Bee Lab: She has collected resin from honey bees, extracted RNA to make cDNA copies for real time PCR analysis and other field and laboratory work.  She is currently decoding waggle dances and recovering pollen from honey bees via acetolysis.  Michelle is interested in finding ways to improve honey bee health through research. 


B.S. Conservation Biology, with a minor in Entomology, 2017, University of Minnesota

Former Students

  • Elaine Evans, PhD. December 30, 2016, “Land uses that support wild bee (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila) communities within an agricultural matrix”, Masters January, 2001. “Competition between honey bees and bumblebees: effects on reproductive success of Bombus impatiens”  Currently: Extension Educator, Bee Researcher, Captain of the Wild Bee Team for the Bee Squad, University of Minnesota

  • Renata Borba, PhD. September 29, 2015, “Constitutive and therapeutic benefits of plant resins and a propolis envelope to honey bee, Apis mellifera L., immunity and health”  Currently:  Post-doc, L. Foster and S. Pernal, Univ British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.
  • Judy Wu, PhD PhD. September 30, 2015.  “Integrating science and policy: examining effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) and bumble bee (Bombus impatiens Cresson) queens, worker bees, and colony development “  Currently:  Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Dept. Entomology
  • Matthew Smart, PhD. February 12, 2015. “The influence of mid-continent agricultural land use on the health and survival of commercially managed honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies.”  Currently:  Wildlife Biologist, USGS Jamestown, North Dakota
  • Mike Goblirsch, PhD.  October 2014.  “The effects of Nosema ceranae  on honey bee health”  Currently, Post-doctoral researcher, Univ Minnesota
  • Joel Gardner, Master’s (co-advised with R. Holzenthal) September 19, 2013, “A survey and historical comparison of the Megachilidae of Itasca State Park” Currently: Researcher, Surveying and Identifying Native Bees in MN for D. Cariveau and M. Spivak
  • Michael Simone, PhD (EEB) September 14, 2010, “Colony-level immunity benefits and behavioral mechanisms of resin collection by honey bees”  Currently, Research Scientist, USDA-ARS Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Kathleen Lee, MS January 23, 2009, “A practical standardized sampling plan for Varroa destructor on Apis mellifera” Curently, Tech Transfer Team Leader, Northern Team and PhD Candidate, Spivak Lab.
  • Jodi Swanson, Masters October 28, 2008 “Volatile compounds from chalkbrood infected larvae elicit honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) hygienic behavior”  Currently,  Wisconsin DNR, Aquatic Invasive Species.
  • Abdullah Ibrahim, PhD September 9, 2005  “Honey bee mechanisms of resistance to diseases and the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor”  Currently:  Scientist: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Beaver Lodge, Alberta, CA with Dr. S Pernal.
  • Katarzyna Goode, Masters  August 30, 2005. “Olfactory sensitivity of hygienic honey bees”  Currently, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Opthalmology and Visual Neurosciences Department, Medical School, Univ MN.
  • Ian Burns, Ph.D.:  October, 2004. “Social development and conflict in the North American bumblebee Bombus impatiens Cresson” Currently, Retired and part-time Bee Squad
  • Angie Ambourn, Masters May 2004 (co-advised with Dr. J. Jezwik). “Relative of three insect vectors of Ceratocystis fagacearum (Bretz) Hunt in Minnesota.”   Currently Entomologist, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Division- Pest Detection and Response
  • Elaine Evans, Masters January, 2001. “Competition between honey bees and bumblebees: effects on reproductive success of Bombus impatiens”  Currently, PhD Candidate
  • Rebecca Masterman, Ph.D. February, 2000.  “Neuroethology of hygienic behavior in honey bees, Apis mellifera”  Currently, Capitan of the Bee Squad, UMN


Former Post-docs

  • Dr. Arathi Seshadri, Post-doc, 1998-2000.  Ethology of Honey Bee Hygienic Behavior.  Currently, Asst. Professor, Colorado State University
  • Dr. Katia Gramacho, Post-doc, 2004.  Olfactory Sensitivity of Hygienic Honey Bees. Currently, Professor, University Mossoro, Brasil.