Just as November disappeared into December, our “preliminary” experiments have become a vital part of our project! As the past two months flew by, Selina and I spent the majority of our time developing a (successful) protocol for the extraction and analysis of DNA from some of last year’s bee gut samples. After amplifying the extracted DNA using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and visually analyzing the samples using gel electrophoresis, we were left with some varied results and conclusions. First, not every gel we ran was “successful.” Successful in this context refers to the appearance of DNA bands (whether or not DNA from our gut samples could been seen). A variety of potential factors could have influenced the appearance of the results. Among others, some of these might include the presence of PCR inhibitors, the span of time between the initial preparation and the use of the master mix (at later dates), the dilution (or lack thereof) of samples, issues with the DNA amplification, etc. Despite our lack of consistent results, we can conclude that Nosema ceranae is the most prevalent, if not the only strain of the microsporidian present in our county. This was not unexpected, as local beekeepers have not reported signs of Nosema apis (fecal matter on the outside of the hive). Now that our primary testing is complete, it’s time to get creative! Who knows what’s next?
As the end of October is rapidly approaching, not only are Transylvania County honey bees preparing for winter, but TIME projects are in full swing! Among the monotonous tasks of drafting research plans, organizing stations, and completing a myriad of forms comes the excitement of beginning this year’s research! Honey bees presented countless directions for a project, but ultimately, we decided to further investigate the microsporidian parasite, Nosema. Although Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) appears to be the most publicized of threats to honey bee health, Nosemosis (the disease caused by Nosema) is perhaps one of the most detrimental conditions a hive can contract. There are two types of Nosema currently plaguing honey bees, Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae. Last year, we were able to identify some kind of Nosema in Transylvania County honey bee hives, but little did we know just how different the two species were and the respective dangers they impose upon honey bee populations. This year, my partner Selina, and I will be using PCR and LAMP techniques to identify and differentiate the two different species and maybe even determine the quantities of each that we have collected. It is our hope that the data we collect this year could help us to later evaluate the most appropriate and effective treatment method(s) for local honey bee hives, so as to ensure healthy and Nosema-free hives for years to come!
The past three weeks have been extremely busy for the bee group! Due to the cold weather conditions of the past week, we have decided that our sampling is complete. Upon completing the collection, we have visited six hives total. These hives were scattered all throughout Transylvania County. One of our biggest successes was the Suck-A-Bee, as it worked both efficiently and effectively. and greatly aided in the collection of the bees. The accelerated mite drop test also went very well–it was quite amusing to watch the sugar coated honey bees fly around. Fortunately for the beekeepers in the area, hives have looked very healthy! Overall, the experience was great! We visited some really neat places, met some wonderful people, learned some very interesting information and had a lot of fun doing it! Mite counts are complete and now we intend to begin to the Nosema tests. Aaron has led the group in the gut extraction process and we are all looking forward to getting some results. Hopefully, the spore count will be as low as the mite count and we can conclude that Transylvania County has some very healthy bees!
After a week of tediously completing spreadsheets, map questing locations and sending countless emails, Brevard High School’s bee people are ready for some action! The Scorpion vacuum has arrived and the completion of the Suck-A-Bee is in full swing. The Suck-A-Bee is a modification on a hand-held vacuum that we are going to use to collect the samples of bees. After a few minor mishaps and some good laughs, the Suck-A-Bee is finally ready for service. Now, we are focussing on acquiring some last minute bee gear. Fortunately, Transylvania County is home to many friendly beekeepers who have offered to help. With our Suck-A-Bee charged, bee bonnets secure, and pencils poised, we are ready to begin!