Honey Bee Science

It was fun to watch Samantha Dilday, a graduate student at Memorial University, perform some science with my honey bees this past summer. Her research involved tests for aggression (or what we like to more calmly refer to as defensive behaviour) and hygienic behaviour. Hygienic behaviour is usually a good thing. It means the bees are keen to toss out sick or dying bees so that the rest of the colony doesn’t get sick. This includes cleaning away of Varroa mites (if Varroa mites ever make it to Newfoundland).

The research also involved genetic testing and some measurement of brood and honey production. Although curious about it, I had to pass on the brood and honey measurements. I know it’s common practice for many beekeepers to do full hive inspections every eight days, but I’m at the point where I don’t want to do that anymore. I do my best to read the bees from the outside and only dig deep into a hive when I’m concerned about swarming. But I was totally game for the other tests. Check it out:

This is copied and pasted from an email Sam sent me before the experiments…

Aggression test: We will disturb the colony by dropping a small brick onto the top of the hive to elicit a defensive behaviour. A small patch of leather will dangle in front of the hive entrance and the number of embedded stingers found in the patch after 5 minutes will help us determine how aggressive your colonies are.

Hygienic behaviour test: Using liquid nitrogen, we will freeze a small section of brood (about 100 cells) and place the brood frame back into the hive. After 24 hours, we will return and count the number of removed dead brood from the section. This will help use determine how hygienic your hive is and how fast they can remove dead brood.

I’ll probably update this post with more details at a later date. Gotta love science.

Afterthought: Does the music in the video seem a little dramatic and slightly creepy? Not exactly my intention, but these videos are usually slapped together quickly over my lunch break. Odd things that fall together in a hurry are going to happen. It’s not too creepy, though, is it?