Grande Prairie Regional College students tackle honey bee decline

September 23, 2016

From: Maclean’s

A bee diagnostic centre is looking to save our most useful insects.

Daina Lawrence

The first month of Kaitlin Patterson’s summer was spent crushing up dead honeybees by hand. It got easier when she was able to use a “stomacher machine,” similar to a blender, to speed up the task. “Instead of having the bees in a bag, mashing them by hand, we’d put them in this machine,” says Patterson. “Where we would normally be able to do 30 samples in a day, we got up to 120 done in the same timeframe.” With the welfare of the world’s honeybees in drastic decline, this might seem callous. It’s not. It’s science—and it’s an essential element to help the insects regain their numbers.

The 20-year-old nursing student at Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) spent the summer working at the National Bee Diagnostic Centre-Technology Access Centre (NBDC-TAC), operated by GPRC through its Centre for Research and Innovation. Patterson was tasked with gathering and prepping bee samples at the Beaverlodge Research Farm (40 km west of Grande Prairie), for tests to diagnose many colony ailments, from deformed wing virus to varroa mites.

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