Skip to main content
Think and Do The Extraordinary
Support the Unit

David Tarpy

Professor and Extension Apiculturist

Honey bee biology

1558A Thomas Hall


Our research program spans the entire spectrum from highly basic science on honey bee biology to highly applied science on apiculture and bee management. We currently have five main research paradigms in the lab: (1) polyandry and resultant intracolony genetic diversity that multiple mating confers, particularly in the behavioral mechanisms that govern polyandry and the adaptive benefits to the colony; (2) molecular and pollinator ecology, studying how honey bees fit into the greater community of pollinators and urban and agroecosystems; (3) oxidative stress and social immunity, exploring the physiological and behavioral mechanisms and consequences of disease and stress; (4) integrated pest management of parasites and pathogens; and (5) the reproductive quality of queens and the genomic, pheromonal, social, and practical consequences of variation in queen reproductive potential. Our extension program is targeted at disseminating information about honey bees and bee management to the public and beekeeping groups, working with local, state, and national beekeeping associations, and administering novel extension initiatives such as the online Beekeeper Education & Engagement System (BEES) and the NC State Queen & Disease Clinic.


RESEARCH (65%): Our lab studies the behavioral ecology of insect societies, with a primary focus on the proximate and ultimate mechanisms of honey bee queen behavior. In doing so, we attempt to address questions of basic science that have practical relevance. Our approach is to integrate a general understanding of bee biology to help improve overall colony health and productivity; in an era when the honey bee population is being severely impacted by any number of factors, we feel that it is necessary to become more proactive in asking questions that address not just basic (long-term) or applied (short-term) questions, but both.

Some of our current areas of research include:

  • Evolution of polyandry and consequences of intracolony genetic diversity
  • Molecular and pollinator ecology
  • Oxidative stress and social immunity
  • Parasite and pathogen IPM
  • Queen reproductive quality

Current list of publications

Google Scholar



ENT 203 An Introduction to the Honey Bee and Beekeeping [webpage]

Introduction to honey bee biology and a fundamental understanding of beekeeping management including crop pollination by bees. Examination of the relationships between honey bees and humans from prehistoric through modern times and the behavior andsocial system of one of the animal world’s most complex and highly organized non-human societies. Course Offerings: Each Fall semester. Enrollment: 180 students.


ENT 601/801E Social Behavior of Insects [webpage]

Graduate-level discussion of eusocial insects and other social groups. Course Offerings: Spring semester every third year.


EXTENSION (15%): Coordinator of beekeeping workshops in Basic Beekeeping, Queen Rearing, and Bee Breeding. Webmaster of an internet-based apiculture site, devoted to the dissemination of information and knowledge pertaining to honey bees and bee management. Coordinator, director, and content manager of the new Beekeeper Education  & Engagement System (BEES). The BEES network offers a variety of online beekeeping mini-courses for beekeepers at all levels. The content is divided into three general topic areas (honey bee biology, management, and industry) and three ascending levels of engagement (‘Beginner’, ‘Advanced’, and ‘Ambassador’).

Other links of interest:

Lab home page:

North Carolina State Beekeepers Association (NCSBA)

North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS)

NC AHB –a comprehensive web site about Africanized bees in North Carolina

BeeLinked— an online market for growers who require honey bee pollination and beekeepers who have hives for rent

County Extension Offices (NCSU Cooperative Extension)


BS, Biology, Hobart College (1993)
MS, Biology, Bucknell University (1995)
Ph.D, Entomology, University of California, Davis (2000)