Researchers at the University of California, Riverside are leading a new effort to stop and reverse a worldwide decline in honeybees. To boost dwindling honeybee populations, the University of California’s Office of the President has awarded $900,000 to a four-campus network of bee researchers and engineers. Boris Baer is a professor of entomology at UC Riverside and principal investigator of the project.
Baer… “If you look at any domesticated animal that we have: cow or beef or pigs or dogs and cats. If something's wrong with these domesticated animals, you go to the veterinarian and the veterinarian is well-equipped to identify what it is and then to treat that animal now. For bees it's really different. We have basically nothing. We have three or four very generic medications and the veterinarian sciences have never really taken up to be as a domesticated animal, which is kind of surprising given how important the bees are.”
Baer says one of the aspects of the project will be to find new tools to treat and protect the health of honeybees.
Baer… “New medication against diseases, but also new kind of medications where we could help bees if they get exposed to pesticides with microbes that can actually kind of downgrade pesticides that the bees are exposed to. So these are kind of more treatment options to maintain the bees health.”
As part of the $900,000 grant awarded to four campuses including UC Riverside, researchers hope to be able to catch bee health issues earlier. Boris Baer is a professor of entomology and principal investigator of the project.
Baer… “So we know that bees mainly communicate with smell, but also a bit with sound. So if you have a microphone in these colonies, if we basically sniff in with chemical sensors, you can pick up some of the molecules that we already know that bees release in response to certain things happening inside the hive, for example, the queen has a specific pheromone. So as long as the pheromone is in the hive, we know the queen is present. We have a hunger signal. A signal that larvae release when they got infected with a parasite and want to get removed.”
The goal is to use technology to gather early signals of bee health concerns to catch and solve problems before they lead to colony collapse.
Baer… “The idea is to have an electronic veterinarian that basically sits inside the hive and does something that I would refer to as Google Translate for bees.”
The four-campus network of entomologists and engineers will become one of the largest honeybee health networks in the country.