Georgia Tech Honey Bee Project 2/2 – Ramblin’ Research (2019)


♪ [music] ♪ Narrator: In a follow-up report
to our original segment on the honeybee project
here on campus we talked to Dr. Leavey further
on what is affecting honeybees and what we can
all do to help out. Jennifer Leavey, PhD.:
We established the urban honeybee project
mainly as a way for students who are studying all different
kinds of science subjects to use
a common model system. So we initially
weren’t interested in doing the kinds
of research that you might find
at an agricultural school. We’re more interested
in developing technologies to study bees, for example. So there are a group of students
in a VIP team called Bees Snap that develop technologies
to study bees. They use computational methods
like GIS to analyze where are optimal
bee habitats in Atlanta. It’s good information
for bee keepers because you’ll know
where you can place bees and they’ll be able
to find food. But it’s also really good
information for conservationists who are interested
in planting trees to provide food for bees
throughout the city. We have definitely gone
through sort of peaks and valleys of honeybee health
while we’ve been here. There are a lot of threats
to bees. There are diseases and we’ve
seen many of the common diseases that are afflicting honeybees
in North America right now, including
varroa destructor mites, which are a small arachnid. They are kind of like
a parasitic mite similar to a tick
for people that attach to them and spread diseases
to them like viruses and also generally weaken them
by feeding on them. We have also seen some of the
viruses that varroa destructor can spread,
like deformed wing virus, and this is a virus that when
a developing larva of a honeybee becomes infected as it
undergoes metamorphosis, things get messed up. And the wings actually wind up
being shriveled in the adults and then clearly those bees
aren’t going to be able to contribute
to the health of the hive, because they can’t fly
and forage and bring back food
for the hive. We have lost at least half
of our hives every year due to disease,
due to probably malnutrition, the inability for these bees
to bring back enough food to make it through the winter and then also chronic pesticide
exposure. In rural areas, you see a lot of exposure
to the types of insecticides that would be used
on crop fields. But in the city, the one that I worry the most about
is mosquito spraying, because the insecticides
that are used to kill adult mosquitoes, frequently
they spray these on shrubbery that could be flowering,
and those bees are then are going to be
visiting those flowers and picking up the insecticide and bringing it back
to the hive. There are a lot of sub-lethal
effects that insecticides
can have on bees. It can affect at what age
they begin foraging and bringing food back. It can affect their memory, their ability to find their way
back to the hive. And so you know, those are
the main impacts on bees: reducing habitat, lack of food,
pesticide exposure, and disease. Narrator: Now of course,
all of those conditions spell big trouble
for black and yellow friends, but that doesn’t mean the
situation is hopeless for them. If you at home feel a call
to action viewing this, I would encourage you
to get involved with their efforts
however you can. To help you guys out,
we asked her, what are some of the best ways you at home can make
a difference? Jennifer Leavey, PhD.:
So there are a lot of things that people can do to help
improve the health of bees if they want to do this
on their own. You can create native bee
habitat which is really, really easy and much easier
than keeping honey bees. The way you can do this is
just by leaving some wood out. You could drill some holes in
it, and if you just Google how to make a native bee nest
it’s really, really easy to do. You basically just leave a piece
of wood out with holes in it and there are all these species
of bees like leaf cutter bees and mason bees that will lay
their eggs in there and those bees are
wonderful pollinators and they’re native to the area. Of course, planting flowers. And when I say planting flowers, I don’t mean just planting
a little flower plant in a pot. Trees are the best. Flowering trees provide
a lot of food for honeybees and other bee species. And whether you’re able to plant
a tree yourself or volunteer with some place like
Trees Atlanta and go out and plant trees
in the area, that’s a really wonderful
thing to do. And then just also spread the
word about mosquito spraying. A lot of people spray
for mosquitoes in their yard and it’s really toxic
not just to bees, but to all kinds
of beneficial insects. So if you can be an advocate
for bees and encourage people to spray repellent on themselves rather than, you know, spraying
poison all over their yards it will have a real impact. Narrator: To wrap things up,
bees play a monumental role in the preservation
of our ecosystem, but they’re also in a bit
of a vulnerable place right now. Thankfully, on our campus,
more than a few people are both looking out for them and spreading the word
about their current situation. If you’re looking to become
one of those people, we’d remind you to apply
through their VIP program or by checking out
their website, bees.gatech.edu. For now, though, this has been
Ramblin Research
at GTCN and we’ll see you all next time. ♪ [music] ♪

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