Tag Archives: video

Bees trained to give early warning of plant disease

Remember, back in school, hearing about Pavlov’s dog that learned to drool when it heard a bell ring? That method of “classical conditioning” is how Dr. Andrew Sutherland, a researcher with the University of California Davis Plant Pathology Department, is training honey bees to detect plant disease in agricultural crops.

Here’s the story, straight from Dr. Sutherland:

The problem that we face in California and in the world really is that there are many plant pathogens infecting our crops and many times we apply chemical fungicides to combat that. In our lab we hope to teach honey bees to respond to plant pathogens in the field so that we may detect those plant pathogens and reduce the fungicide applications. Insects in general and honey bees included are excellent vapor sensors and have excellent chemo sensors on their antennas so they’re able to detect organic molecules in the air at the low parts per billion. Bees can be taught to associate an odor with a reward through classical conditioning. First, we restrain the honey bees after collection, we restrain the honey bees inside a harness of sorts such that their heads and antenna are protruding then we expose the bees to the smell of an infected grape leaf or grape berry and we feed the bees at the same. So, in time, the bees learn to associate this odor with the sugar reward. So, the next step is actual detection in the field and this is accomplished through some prototype equipment that’s been designed by my collaborators at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The bees that have been trained are placed inside and when they encounter the smell within the box, they respond and this information is relayed to a computer and we were able to see that indeed we have detected the pathogen in the field. The ultimate goal here is to be able to detect plant pathogens in the field earlier than you can do with your eye so that we have an early warning system and we can better plan fungicide applications to be more efficient in time and space.

See also:
Can bees be trained to prevent plant disease? (Smart
Bees can be trained to detect plant diseases by Jeannette E. Warnert at UCANR.org

Natural Beekeeping Workshop with Ross Conrad

Ross Conrad, author of Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches To Modern Apiculture, will be giving a workshop at Windhorse Farm in New Germany, Nova Scotia on the weekend of June 25 – 27, 2010. Former president of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, Conrad is a regular contributor to Bee Culture – The Magazine of American Beekeeping.

Two full days of hands-on education in natural beekeeping methods with Ross Conrad, plus 6 meals of local, organic, seasonal food (Friday supper; Saturday breakfast, lunch and supper; and Sunday breakfast and lunch) are included in the workshop price: $235 plus tax.

Windhorse Farm is one of the sustainability “demonstration sites” for the climate change program of Windhorse Education Foundation, and should be an interesting location for the Natural Beekeeping workshop. If you would like to stay overnight at Windhorse Farm (not included) you can book accommodations with Jim Drescher (jim@windhorsefarm.org) or phone (902) 543-6955. For more information about the workshop itself, please contact Margaret Drescher at Windhorse Farm, 132 Sarty Road, New Germany, Nova Scotia, Canada B0R 1E0; email margaret@windhorsefarm.org; phone (902) 543-6955. You can also download a poster (PDF file format) at http://www.windhorsefarm.org/Uploads/Natural Beekeeping Poster June 2010.pdf.

Note: Central Beekeepers Alliance member Ellen Hawkins plans to attend the workshop, so have a word with her at the next CBA meeting if you’d like to arrange to share a ride.

What Would Your Garden Look Like Without Bees?

Bees are endangered, as we know, but the new is not all bad. There are many things that an individual can do -in our own gardens – to help protect these essential pollinators, and the food crops that depend on them.

While researchers are looking for the causes, honey bee populations around the world continue to decline at alarming rates. Given that more than a third of our food supply is dependent on pollination by honey bees, it is not an exaggeration to say that we have the potential for a major agricultural disaster. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there are many things that we as individuals can do to promote the health of the honey bee.

Bee the Solution:

  • Grow bee-friendly plants
  • Create a four-season sanctuary for pollinators
  • Become a beekeeper
  • Make a drinking fountain for bees
  • Buy local, organic, unpasteurized honey
  • Stop spraying
  • Support bee research

Endorsed by Bee Culture Magazine and Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, A Bee Lover’s Garden has produced a fundraising calendar to support the Eastern Apicultural Society’s Foundation for Honey Bee Research. Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture Magazine, will chair a committee to review proposals and make the final recommendation.

Starting a New Bee Hive

In this video, Colorado beekeeper Dan explains how he installs a 3-lb package of bees with queen into their new hive, showing the protective clothing, tools and equipment that he uses.

He places his hives on a hivestand (base) with a sloped landing deck on the front, set up on wooden pallets levelled into the ground to keep everything dry. His supers are 10-frame full-depth and the frames are filled with plastic foundation — more durable than wax, “and the bees don’t care,” he says. A thump of the package sends the bees to the bottom, then he sprinkles a little sugar water to distract them before dumping the bees into the new hive.

The process for installing the caged queen is demonstrated: removing the cork from the cage and replacing it with a piece of candy that the bees will eat away in a few days, releasing the queen.

An entrance reducer cuts down on the territory that this small new colony will need to protect. Sugar water (syrup) in a feeding jar with holes in the lid is provided for the bees to find and feed on, as it’s too early for forage plants to be much in bloom. Interestingly, he uses a field feeding system — the feeder is set out near the hive, rather than placed directly in or on top of the hive.

You’ll notice a two-wire electric fence set up around the hives. Dan explains that Colorado has quite a bear problem, and the 9000-volt fence gives enough of a jolt to the nose of any curious bears that they’ll keep away. It’s a “short pulse” current, however, so no real harm will be done to the bears or to any passing pets or children.

Later in the video, three days later, you’ll see that it seems like the queen didn’t make it out, so Dan comes to the rescue. He opens the cage, taking care that the queen won’t fly away, and shakes her gently into the hive between the frames.

If you have any comments or questions about this video, please contact Dan by email at mtnbee@msn.com.