Spivak Lab Team

Dr. Marla Spivak

Marla Spivak

McKnight Distinguished Professor

I'm interested social insects in general, and honey bees specifically: social immunity, behaviors, breeding, and beekeeping on large and small scales. My position is a 3-way split among research, teaching and extension, which allows breadth and freedom to explore basic mechanisms and/or real-world applications in our studies and educational endeavors.


PhD University of Kansas, 1989, B.A. Biology, Humboldt State University 1978


Having a sweat bee named after me by Joel Gardner: Lasioglossum spivakae; MacArthur Fellowship 2010; WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Earth Award 2016....and some others




Gary Reuter

Gary Reuter


Gary has retired from the bee lab after almost 30 years of service. During that time he has maintained the bee colonies for research, helped Marla and the students with research, taught beekeeping classes, helped with producing the online beekeeping class and helped design and oversee the building of the Bee Lab building. He plans to continue to be involved with the Bee Lab and the beekeeping industry teaching and giving talks.





Dr. Katie Lee

Katie Lee

Extension Educator and Researcher

I am the Apiculture Extension Educator, a Bee Squad team member, and a post-doctoral researcher on the Minnesota Agriculture for Pollinators Project led by Dr. Dan Cariveau. My work focuses on the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, metrics that indicate queen bee and colony health, and the benefits of pollinator plantings on bee health. I developed a parasitic mite sampling protocol that is now a nationwide standard. For the Bee Informed Partnership, I founded two extension teams that provide colony assessment services for commercial beekeepers. I serve on the boards of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association and the American Beekeeping Federation and co-chair the education and research committees.


PhD, Entomology, 2018, U of MN, Advisor: Marla Spivak M.S. Entomology, 2009, U of MN, Advisor: Marla Spivak B.S. Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, 2005, U of MN



Ben Ziegler


[email protected]

Ben Ziegler gained an interest in aiding pollinators through years of gardening and habitat restoration. He transitioned out of the USAF in 2012, and currently aids the Spivak Honey Bee Lab, the Bee Squad, and Bee Veterans program in research and bee/plant maintenance. He spends his free time tinkering with trap crops, grafting stone fruit trees, and honing his caveman-medic skills.


B.S. in Plant Science and minors in Entomology, Urban and Community Forestry, and Horticulture from the University of Minnesota, 2021; A.A. in Computer Animation from Art Institute of Minnesota,1999.





Nelson Williams

Nelson Williams

BIP Honey Bee Health Field Specialist

I work for the Bee Informed Partnership monitoring the health of commercial beekeeping operations in MN, ND, and WI. I also own and operate a small honey business, Urban Hives, based in St. Louis, MO. Outside of bees I enjoy playing/coaching ice hockey.


B.S. Environmental Science/Business Management Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

[email protected]


Ben Sallmann

UMN Bee Lab Technician, Honey Bee Health Specialist

Ben Sallmann

My interest in honey bees started as a child while working for the family apiary in Wisconsin. After pursuing other careers and interests for a decade, bees found me again in 2013, when I began working with queen breeders for Bee Informed Partnership in Northern California. Four years later, I transferred to Oregon, where I worked with migratory pollinators and honey producers across the Pacific NW. It has been fascinating to observe and compare the different management strategies used by successful commercial operations across the western US.

Since the summer of 2021, I have been splitting my time between monitoring colony health of commercial colonies for BIP, and working on various projects at the UMN Bee Lab. I am especially interested in the queen breeding program here, and managing the research/breeder colonies has already given me a new perspective on the challenges faced by all types of beekeepers.

Outside of bee work, I keep busy playing trombone, propagating rare succulent plants, and exploring the twin cities.


B.A. in Anthropology and Global Studies, Ripon College 2004




Sofia Levin-Nikulin

Post-doctoral researcher  

I'm passionate about honey bees and their wellbeing. Last decade I was involved in the investigation of insect viruses, and discovered four new-to-science viruses of honey bees Apis mellifera and Apis cerana, and the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. I'm currently interested in applied science to look for alternative solutions for honey bees disease management in the beekeeping industry. 


Applied entomology, honey bee diseases, host-pathogen interactions, viral ecology, molecular virology.

PhD Agroecology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2019, M.Sc.Agr Genetics and Breeding, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2005



Isabell Dyrbye-Wright

Isabell Dyrbye-Wright

M.S. Student

Research Interests: I am interested in how honey bees prevent disease transmission or social immunity of hives. After studying chalkbrood in Denmark over the summer of 2022, I have become fascinated with pathogens and hygienic behavior. My master’s thesis will be in studying the hygienic response of a line of honey bees bred to be resistant to the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, when challenged with pathogens. In my free time, I enjoy rock climbing, fly-fishing, and mountain biking. 

Education: B.A. Biology, 2022, Macalester College

Katrina Klett

Katrina Klett

PhD Student

Katrina is a PhD candidate interested the swarming behavior of Asian honeybees, particularly Apis cerana. She is also interested in how public and private incentives shape land use and how this affects pollinator health.


Master's of Science- (chemical ecology) Chinese Academy of Science, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden


Katrina is a Truman, Udall, and Fulbright Scholarship award recipient. She is also an Echoing Green Fellow.




Maggie Shanahan

PhD Student

Research interests 

Resin use and social immunity in honey bees and stingless bees


B.S. Biology, University of Puget Sound, 2013




  • Hollie Wall Dalenberg, Master's November, 2020. “The effects of propolis on the honey bee (Apis mellifera) immune system and mouthpart microbiome”

  • Morgan Carr-Markell, PhD. May, 2020. “Effects of native prairie forbs on the foraging choices and recruitment behavior of honey bees (Apis mellifera)”

  • James Wolfin, MS August, 2019, "Measuring the abundance and diversity of bee pollinators in florally enhanced lawns. Currently Sustainable Landcare Manager: Turf Alternatives at Metro Blooms

  • Katie Lee, PhD. December 31, 2018, "Improving the health and survivorship of commercial honey bee colonies." Masters April 30, 2009, "A Practical Standardized Sampling Plan for Varroa destructor on Apis mellifera." Currently: Post-Doc, D. Cariveau, Dept. of Entomology, University of Minnesota.

  • 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

  • Autumn 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

  • 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”  Former, Director of the Bee Squad, UMN


  • Dr. Mike Goblirsch, Post-doc, 2015-2019. Bee pathology, Studies on his AmE-711 honey bee cell line.

  • 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.