U of M bee legend Marla Spivak to retire

May 20, 2024

After three decades of pioneering bee science at the U of M, Marla Spivak, PhD, will buzz into retirement at the end of this year. 

The Distinguished McKnight University Professor and MacArthur Fellow, who is an entomology researcher and professor, and Extension entomologist at the Bee Lab, joined the U of M in 1992. In 2010, she started the popular Bee Squad, a community outreach program dedicated to fostering healthy bee populations and pollinator landscapes. In a recent interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Spivak reflected on her long career of bee science and advocacy. 

Spivak said that her fascination with honey bees began in 1973 when she checked out a library book about the life of bees. “It fascinated me, both the bees and the beekeepers,” she said. “I went to work for a commercial beekeeper and then I was just hooked.” While an expert in all things bees, Spivak is perhaps best known for her work to develop hygienic bees, which are resistant to disease. She also has a sweat bee named after her— Lasioglossum spivakae

To ensure that the legacy of U of M honey bee research continues, it is endowing the Honey Bee Research Chair in the Department of Entomology, and is working to raise the $5 million needed to permanently endow this chair. There is about $1.5 million left to raise by June 30, 2024, so the department can begin the search process before Spivak’s retirement and honey bee research can continue uninterrupted. An endowed chair will allow the U of M to carry on the legacy of honey bee research that began here in 1918. 

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