Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee (Megachile rotundata)

Megachile rotundata (or the alfalfa leafcutter bee) is a species native to Eurasia that was introduced into the United States after the 1930’s because of a drop in seed production. This bee was brought into the US to increase pollination yields of Alfalfa for seed because honey bees are not the best pollinators of the crop. M. rotundata was also introduced to New Zealand (1971) and Australia (1987) for the same reasons. This solitary species is now widespread across the United States with many feral populations. Alfalfa has a tripping mechanism that triggers the stamen (pollen reproductive organ) to strike the pollinator enabling pollen transfer…

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Bee Educated! A Semester with Pollinaterps

I've been around the research block a few times.  In high school, I was involved in a student lead permafrost research initiative where I got the chance to travel to Churchill, Manitoba and get my hands dirty with my first taste of fieldwork.  I started in on-campus research way back in my very first semester of freshman year, studying vampire bat behavior.  I spent a summer in an entomology lab at the Smithsonian, identifying parasitic wasps, and pan trapping at sites all over Maryland.  And now, as a seasoned sophomore, I got the chance to expand my research horizons to the vanEnglesdorp lab. I had…

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Bees in the Classroom

Have you ever thought about teaching your kids, grandchildren, a young family friend, or even a class at a local elementary school about honey bees? Well, I have! I love going into elementary classrooms and teaching the youth about honey bees. They are our next generation of bee keepers, farmers, scientists, and researchers so we need to get them excited early. When I go and talk to a classroom of students I make sure to always bring a few things with me: My bee suit – it gets their attention and gets them involved because they love to put it on. Honey – for them…

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Apitherapy: Bee Healthy!

People have long venerated bees for their honey production and crop pollination. Few people know that bees can do more than that. Bee byproducts are now widely used as health supplements, and doing something as simple as eating local honey can give you health benefits. This blog will review a few common bee byproducts and their physiological benefits. Honey Besides being a delicious sweetener, honey has been proven to be useful in medicine. One of the proven applications is the use of honey as a wound dressing. In this it has been shown to reduce healing times and scarring when used on wounds, even in…

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How dogs’ incredible sense of smell can help beekeepers

Dogs are truly amazing, not only for their loyalty and affection but also for their incredible sense of smell. It is common knowledge that their nose easily overpowers our own.  In fact, it’s approximately 10,000 times better according to researchers at FSU. James Walker describes it well: "If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well." Say, I’m at home making beef stew on the stove and my two beagles are hovering around me salivating from the smell. All I smell…

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Whole Foods Market Takes a Stand

The rapid decline in the honey bee population for the past several years may not set a blaring red alarm to the average person, but did you know that one out of every three bites of food you consume comes from plants pollinated by honeybees? Now you’re paying attention! The continuing decline of pollinators comes with a price; to see more check out this interesting news article from PR Newswire where a Whole Foods Market takes a look at its produce section. To raise awareness of just how crucial pollinators are to our food system, the University Heights Whole Foods Market store temporarily removed all…

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To Bee Or Not To Bee

Ghonva Ghauri is a pre-med physiology and neurobiology major at University of Maryland. She is part of our ongoing Nosema project which is focused on the examination of individual bees for Nosema spores. Aside from microscopy, Ghonva has shown an interest in how honey bees have become a part of human cultures across the world. This is her blog… Earlier this semester, I was explaining to a group of friends what I did at my research lab in the Department of Entomology. The moment after I mentioned the words “the importance of bees” to them, the first response I got (which I’m sure most of them…

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Universal Hive

The universal hive can be used to solve many everyday beekeeping challenges including how to maximize the potential and ultimately the production of a hive by means of increasing its worth through the diversification of its function. Beekeepers can be measured by their ability to act and react to an ever changing environment. They possess a working knowledge of bee biology and use experience, ingenuity, innovation, and common sense to manage their hives. Those that exercise the most applied and efficient management practices often reap the most benefits. Balancing practicality, efficiency, quantity, and quality is an art that can take a lifetime to master. An…

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Gardening for Pollinators

Warm weather is just around the corner which makes this the perfect time of year to begin planting a garden. Working in the garden is relaxing, a great form of exercise and adds to aesthetics of your yard, plus you get lots of yummy home-grown veggies! But why stop here? Knock two birds out with one stone, and also add plants that serve as healthy food sources for honey bees, native bees and other native pollinators. The first step is selecting an ideal location for your garden if you don’t have a plot laid out already. Most of the plants that pollinators find appealing require…

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Sampling in the Deep South

After spending about a month in California, I flew south to meet Jody Gerdts and travel around East Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi for three weeks. While most of the bees in the country are in California for almond pollination, there are a few beekeepers that have or bring bees down to the South for producing the next generation of bees to sell.  A number of the beekeepers the Midwest Bee Tech-Team works with migrate to the south for the winter, so we follow them. We visited nine beekeepers and did hygienic testing, and took samples for Nosema and Varroa for them. (Jody works on the…

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