Education and Bee Science

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A student observes varroa mites while extracting honey. Varroa mites captured from drone brood pulled from a frame of honey (L) are viewed under a microscope (R).
Lactobacillus cultured from bee gut.

Goal

An early goal of Hivetool has been to attract students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) by getting bee science into the classroom. Bee science includes agriculture, biology, botany, chemistry, computing, food, industrial arts, math, physics, programming, statistics – in short, something for everyone. Experiments introduce students to a number of STEM projects and allow hands on experiences in design, research, data gathering and analysis. Labor intensive studies that are suited for a student workforce are selected.

This project based approach allows for multiple learning styles and reinforces theory that the students are taught in class. Real world projects are designed to foster an appreciation for and an understanding of how science is conducted in the real world. Pedagogically it also presents a way to have students do significant scientific hands on research instead of just learning about science from a text or lecture.

Bees in the Classroom

In 2011, the Blue Ridge Honey Company donated a hive to be set up as an observation hive on the campus of Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. Instead of a classical observation hive, it was set up as an 21st century observation hive, on a scale, with temperature sensors, camera and microphone. It is designated GA004 with NASA's Honey Bee Net.

For the last four years, during the first week of classes, students extract honey from the hives. The bees and products from the hive are used for science experiments, fund raising and student activities.

Students pull honey and inspect hives.
Students extract honey.
Bee gut bacteria culture.
Lactobacillus from bee gut culture.
Pollen lab conducted with pollen collected from hive.
Widescreen TV at entrance to the Morris Brown Science Building displaying live video from hive.
Students present Symposium projects to the Macon County Beekeepers Association.
AP Physics students assemble hive scale.
AP Physics students assemble hive scale.

Spring 2012

A hive donated by the Blue Ridge Honey Company was set up as a 21st century observation hive on the campus of Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. It was placed on an electronic scale and connected to the internet.

Fall 2012

Students extracted honey from the hive.

Spring 2013

Three projects using the bees were entered in the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School 2012-2013 Science Symposium.

The results of their findings were presented at a Macon County Beekeepers Association meeting.

A 60 inch high definition TV was installed in the entrance to the Morris Brown Science Building can stream live bee activity and hive weight.

Fall 2013

In the fall of 2013, 70 pounds of honey was extracted. and sold in one pound jars to parents for $10 a jar.

During the extraction, a frame of drone brood that was in the honey super was examined for varroa mites.

Fall 2014

In the fall of 2014, 170 pounds of honey was extracted. and sold in one pound jars to parents for $10 a jar.

During the extraction, a frame of drone brood that was in the honey super was examined for varroa mites.

Fall 2015

In the fall of 2015, over 300 pounds of honey was extracted. and most of it sold in one pound jars to parents for $10 a jar. A series of talks, presentations and hands on activities were conducted for three classes who participated in extracting honey. A three trimester course, Botany, Entomology and Microbiology was offered. The course consisted of Botany field trips in the fall, microbiology lab experiments in the winter. Five electronic scales were assembled.

Winter 2016

Lab experiments were conducted to measure the effect of glyphosate on honey bee gut bacteria. Effect of a common agricultural herbicide on honey bee gut bacteria

Spring 2016

Field experiments measured insecticide, fungicide and herbicide levels in hives at three locations: pristine, urban and agricultural as part of the Long Term Environmental Research Program at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School.

Fall 2016

In the fall of 2016, over 300 pounds of honey was extracted. and most of it sold in one pound jars to parents for $10 a jar. A series of talks, presentations and hands on activities were conducted for classes who participated in extracting honey. A three trimester course, Botany, Entomology and Microbiology was again offered. The RGNS apiary has been built up to 12 hives.

Spring 2017

After wintering the hives in Unadilla, Georgia, 80 lbs of honey was extracted and sold. The RGNS apiary now consists of 17 hives

Fall 2017

Due to student demand, two sessions of Botany, Entomology and Microbiology are being taught. 624 pounds of honey were harvested, bottled and sold.

Uses in the Curriculum

Biology

Measure the effect of stressors on bees

Lab procedures and protocols are being developed:

Parasites

Introduced invasive pests, disease vectors, integrated pest management

Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) are small, reddish-brown tick like pests which feed on the hemolymph ("blood") of the honey bees. The feeding of the mites on the bee opens wounds which are sites for possible infection. In addition, the mite will infect the bee with viruses. Tracheal mites are microscopic mites which reproduce in the trachea (airways) of the bee.

  1. Assess varroa mite levels in the hive using a sticky board.
  2. Assess varroa mite wound damage and tracheal mite infestation using a dissecting microscope.
  3. Determine the cost/benefits of different mite controls: formic acid, thymol, Taktic, cumophos
  4. Design, test and implement a pest control policy.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplification

Bioacoustics

Botany

Melissopalynology - food source and quality

  1. Collect voucher specimens from a 2 mile radius of the hive.
  2. Use GPS and/or google maps to locate the nectar and pollen sources.
  3. Prepare slides, make photomicrographs, build an online pollen database.
  4. Take pollen and nectar samples from hive. Identify source of nectar flow.
  5. Identify and count pollen in local and commercial honey.


Horticulture/Phenology

Use ambient temperature data from the hive to calculate Growing Degree Day (GDD) to predict nectar flow.

Chemistry

  1. Test for sugar adulteration.
  2. Test for Insecticides/Fungicides


Physics

  • Strain Gages
  • Load Cells
  • Bridge, voltage divider
  • Differential Input
  • Analog to Digital Converter

Communication

  1. Write research grant proposals and present to State Beekeepers Assoc.
  2. Publish research

Computers

  1. Interface instruments to computer
  2. Logging
  3. Web server setup and administration
  4. Data base server setup and administration

Video

  1. <a href=http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/rbf/VAIB08PAPERS/vaib9_mummert.pdf>Intel Research Pittsburgh, Video Monitoring of honey Bee Colonies</a>
  2. <a href=http://opencv.willowgarage.com/wiki/>Open Computer Vision</a>
  3. Zoneminder
  4. Timelapse
  5. <a href=http://www.classifynder.com/sites/default/papers/CraigThesis1.pdf>Automation of Pollen Analysis using a Computer</a>


Math/Programing

  1. Calibrate instruments - linear scaling, regression.
  2. Statistics.
  3. Audio analysis - time domain/frequency domain, Fourier transform.
  4. Audio synthesis - waveforms, sine wave, square wave
  5. Graphing - implement graphing software for web server