The numbers of honey bees are currently in decline
Researchers are embarking on a three-year study into how food supplies affect honey bees and their resistance to disease.
Beekeepers have reported what they call "alarming" declines in the numbers of colonies that are surviving.
The research at the Rothamsted Institute in Hertfordshire is being co-funded by the government and the bio-tech company Syngenta.
It is hoped the research will devise new ways of keeping colonies healthy.
Experts say honey bee colonies are dying off in unprecedented numbers.
There have been a variety of explanations put forward, such as the increased use of pesticides, the spread of parasites that feed on the bees themselves, or the loss of farmland flowers as agriculture has intensified.
For the first time researchers at Rothamsted will be looking at how nutrition is related to a hive's ability to resist disease.
The bees will be allowed limited foraging expeditions, and at the same time diseases in the hive will be monitored.
BBC environment correspondent, Sarah Mukherjee, says that the theory is, like human beings, the ability of bees to fight off infection is linked to the quality of the food they get.