Alison McAfee is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia, where she studies honey bee reproductive health. She is also a science writer, publishing a monthly column, Science Insider, for American Bee Journal, and other work has been published by Scientific American, the Gairdner Foundation, The Conversation, and UBC Magazine.

Research Summary

Honey bee queens mate several times early in life, then maintain the sperm for years in a specialized storage organ until they die. Colony health depends on the queen’s ability to keep these sperm alive so that she can lay an abundance of fertilized eggs and keep the colony strong; however, environmental factors like heat-shock, cold-shock, and pesticide exposure can dramatically reduce sperm viability.

Extreme weather patterns are on the rise and pesticide residues are persisting in the environment, creating major threats to honey bee colony health. Alison’s research will help us better understand the biological processes underlying sperm viability, how sperm are affected by environmental stressors, and contribute to best-practice recommendations to limit adverse exposure of the queens.


Alison holds a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and completed her Ph.D. in Genome Science and Technology at the University of British Columbia, where she studied molecular mechanisms of hygienic behavior. She is originally from a remote, coastal community and enjoys steep hikes, training horses, catching huge, ugly fish, and breaking speed limits on her bicycle.