Our edu-vacation to Oregon State University’s Honey Bee Research Lab eventually lead us to the actual science labs where graduate assistants are diligently working to collect useful data for unique projects, lead by a very intelligent man, Ramesh Sagili.
One of the fascinating projects involved a set of observation hives. These are indoor hives with a tube that gives bees access to fly outside. What makes these so unique, besides the fact that they are indoors, is that you can watch the bees work through a pane of glass. We noticed that some bees had a tiny colorful numbered sticker on their back. Ellen and Carolyn mentioned that bees with a yellow numbered sticker had been intentionally exposed to a nasty parasite, nosema, that causes bees to develop diarrhea. The bees with the white numbered stickers were control bees, not affected with nosema. These hives were being carefully watched by graduate assistants, who would videotape specific bees for four-hour increments and then later watch the footage recording instances of antennation – sharing information from bee to bee by touching antennae. This incredibly time-consuming project hoped to reveal the differences in antennation between bees affected by nosema and bees not affected.
Oregon State’s lab was also working on many other research projects, including the differences in hive health between those fed with sugar syrup and those fed with diluted honey. Their study at this point is very limited, but they did find that those hives fed with sugar syrup were performing better than those fed with diluted honey. This was not the result we expected, but they informed us that the study still has many more trials to go before it can be considered conclusive.
All good journeys (or edu-vacations) must come to an end. We are so thankful for our hands-on time with the hospitable and incredibly intelligent folks at Oregon State. The knowledge we acquired is invaluable, and the Boise State Bee Team is stronger now because of it. We hope to keep our rooftop hives at Boise State buzzin’ for many years to come! Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!