Miss Bee Hivin’

See what I did with the title there?

beekeeping

Nice outfit though, eh? One of those might come in handy when I’m in Australia trying to cope with the sand flies.

I was back at Guelph university yesterday to see some of the work that’s being done there with bees. Guelph has one of the leading apiary research centres in Canada – if not the whole of north America – and researchers there are currently looking at something called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Basically the number of honey bees has declined by about 30% over the past six years and with bees responsible for pollinating crops and helping to produce food, it’s important scientists work out why the little fellas are popping their clogs.

According to Janine, the ridiculously lovely and enthusiastic researcher who showed me around the centre, biodiversity loss, mites and disease and pesticides are all factors (it’s been discovered one pesticide was causing memory loss in bees, so once they’d found the pollen they couldn’t remember their way back to the hives).

bee stuff

I have to admit, the subject of bees has never really interested me much before (thanks, Comtesse), but spending a couple of hours with someone who was so passionate about their research – and who could explain what they were doing so well – completely changed my view. As with Mimi, the other researcher I met this week, it just goes to show the potential power of good agricultural communicators.

Anyway, I learned loads of stuff about bees, like how the queen goes out to mate for a few days then comes back to the hive and is able to lay 2000 eggs a day for a few years without ever going outside again, and how the colony decides when it wants to have a new matriarch. I also learned about how bees release a banana-scented chemical when they sting someone so other bees can smell danger and know where to attack, and how scientists artificially inseminate queens using this contraption:

bee machine
But most-importantly, I learned how to make a bee beard. If anyone wants some instructions, let me know…

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