Strapped into a small holding device, the honeybee amiably wiggles its antennae. Like a toddler in a highchair, it seems to reach greedily for the dropper with sugar water that appears over its head. As its mouth opens, its tongue darts out for a taste of the sweet liquid.
As part of Ramesh Sagili's experiments to understand honeybee behavior, bees wait in this feeding tube to receive sugar solutions. (Photo courtesy of Ramesh Sagili)
This isn’t just a strange way to treat a honeybee to lunch. It’s all part of Ramesh Sagili’s effort to understand honeybee behavior, and in particular, the reason for their sudden disappearance. Since the emergence of Colony Collapse Disorder in 2006, entire hives of honeybees have been dying with no obvious explanation.
Honeybee decline could seriously damage agricultural crops across the nation. Take the $2 billion California almond industry, which depends heavily on domestic honeybees to pollinate almond crops. Every February, 1.5 million honeybee hives are trucked from all over the country to pollinate the thousands of acres of almonds.
“Without honeybees, there is no almond crop in California,” says Sagili, an assistant professor in horticulture and the OSU Extension honeybee specialist. “In the U.S., it would be highly improbable to rely on hand pollination because the work is so expensive and labor intensive. These plants have coevolved with bees, and the bees do a much more efficient job than humans.”...