Science Cafe: The Story of Honey Bees

Ever wonder how many flowers a bee needs to visit in order to make one teaspoon of honey? Do you understand the “birds and the bees” for bees? Did you know that honey bees have the only abstract language in the animal kingdom besides our own? Indeed, honey bees are among the best studied — and most intriguing — animals on the planet. Honey bees are also an integral component of agriculture, providing pervasive and largely under-appreciated pollination benefits to crops and wild plants, as well as the economies and ecosystems that depend on them. Recent history shows that this asset is dynamic, prone to perturbations, and itself worthy of conservation efforts. The introduction and spread of exotic honey bee parasites beginning in the 1980s, a newly characterized phenomenon termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and the imminent spread of Africanized bees from Florida are all significant challenges that beekeepers face every day to maintain the indispensable contribution of honey bees to human society.

About our Speaker

Dr. David R. Tarpy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology at NC State University and North Carolina’s Extension Apiculturist (honey bee specialist). His research interests address the biology and behavior of honey bee queens — using techniques including field manipulations, behavioral observation, instrumental insemination, and molecular genetics — in order to better understand their biology and improve the overall health of queens and their colonies. As Extension Apiculturist, he coordinates the NC Master Beekeeper Program (currently with more than 3,400 participants), maintains an apiculture website dedicated to the dissemination of information and understanding of honey bees and their management, and spearheads numerous outreach projects such as the New Beekeeper Cost-sharing program that created hundreds of new beekeepers within the state.

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