UNCG professors, students working to save honey bees

For centuries, people took bees and their work for granted. They’re always there, right?

And then, about a decade ago, many of them weren’t. There were entire colonies of honey bees that were collapsing. That’s why, when Phoebe Snyder tells people the kind of work she does with a lab at UNC-Greensboro, they light up.

“Every time I tell people that I'm studying honey bees, they say, 'Wow, that's such important work, what you're doing is really cool,’” says Snyder. “It's really good to know that people still appreciate it.”

Olav Rueppell is the scientist at UNCG who runs the lab. He said the entire scientific community took notice of the honey bee situation, about ten years ago, when problems appeared. And fixing the honey bee population was so important because they are a lot more numerous than wild bees.

“That's - depending on calculations - almost 2 million hives, each with 20,000 bees in there. No single wild bee species would ever come close to those densities,” says Professor Rueppell.

Plus, honey bees almost always return to the hive.

“It's just like we return home, after work, every day,” says Rueppell, but, “beekeepers lose 30 percent of their bees every year and they have to replace it. So they have to work extra hard but we can make it easier for them by providing some tools and by providing bees that are more disease resistant.”

That’s the work his lab is doing, right now. Kaira Wagoner is one of his top researchers and she told FOX8, “Just like you can breed a hound dog to be a better smeller, you can breed these hygienic honey bees to be better at detecting disease in the colony.”

She, too, sees it as important work.

“One thing we learned over the last decade or so is, we shouldn't take bees for granted,” says Wagoner.

See the breakthrough that UNCG has made to help save honey bees in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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