I don’t think it’s any secret that our bee population is in trouble. What if we could find a way to help prevent disease to the bees using dogs? Well, looky here, you can!
Specially trained dogs are now actually sniffing out bacteria in hives. This allows hive owners can stay on top of it and save more hives at a better rate. Just when you thought dogs couldn’t be even more amazing, they astonish us again.
Dogs can be trained to do a lot of things. Finding jobs that work great for them and humans is one thing. Finding a job that helps out another species, gives dogs a job, and helps human food supply out is priceless.
Hive Loss Due to Disease
American foulbrood is a bacteria that can wipe out beehives. It spreads quickly and can be hard to detect. It’s not dangerous for humans, but for those little buzzing friends of ours, it can be deadly. Because of pollination issues due to the decreasing bee population, bees are being shipped all over the country and from other countries to try and help out farmers.
American foulbrood isn’t found in other countries, just the United States. The country is working hard to contain it, but as it spreads quickly, it can be a real challenge. There are actually laws now that you cannot cross state lines with beehives unless they are inspected for this strain of bacteria.
So, what’s a dog to do?
Not Just Any Dog
Well, lucky for the bees, Cybil Preston is changing the way we look at the American foulbrood disease. She trained her Labrador retriever, Mack to sniff out this bacteria. Dogs are amazing, aren’t they?
With Mack as a prototype, Cybil and others have been able to train their dogs to sniff out the bacteria. Cybil says the dogs need to show traits of being toy obsessed to be really excellent at this type of job. They can learn to smell the bacteria and do a better job than even the best apiary specialists.
Safer for Everyone
Because you don’t have to open up the hive for the dog to detect the bacteria, this method is working out surprisingly well. A dog who is trained to do this job can sniff out bacteria faster than four full-time employees.
I can only imagine the number of workplace injuries that are obtained from stings and the like. Having a dog sniff out that bacteria eliminates this issue. It also saves the state or apiary owners quite a bit of money.
Finally, it’s safer for the bees! Without having to open up the hive, you don’t have to deal with stressing out the bees, possibly smoking them, etc. The bees are happier. The workers are happier. The dogs love having a job!
The Training Period
Cybil has a great training process for these dogs. She actually has even obtained a grant to train more dogs and make this process a nationwide one instead of just in Maryland. It all starts with the toy-obsessed dog like we previously mentioned.
The toy gets drenched in the American foulbrood bacteria. You play with the dog and the toy and get them very interested in it. Then, you try just having the bacteria placed inside a toy. See if you get the same response from the dog. Finally, you take the toy and hide it various places and see if your dog can sniff it out.
It’s actually more complicated than that, and Cybil could attest to that, but that is the basics of how the training process works for these dogs. It doesn’t seem too terrible and the dogs get to play with toys. We all know how much dogs love having a job. They just seem to trot a little fancier and hold their heads higher.
A Noble Pursuit
“Sixty-nine percent of responding beekeepers lost more of their colonies than deemed to be acceptable.” (referring to 2017/2018 season)
With bees being responsible for 30% of cross-pollination and 90% of our wild plants to thrive, it’s no wonder there’s such a fear behind this rapid decline of bee populations. There are activists out there trying to spread the word and educate people on the causes of bee population decline. It’s just not enough.
New processes for detecting disease as Cybil has created are making huge strides in saving the bees. It’s a very noble pursuit and one that hasn’t gone unnoticed. The more publicity this gains, the more dogs that can be trained to help stop the spread of American foulbrood.
Disease among bees is a serious issue. As Cybil states, “Everything else that can go wrong with the hives is fixable,” she said, “but not that.”
Using dogs to help stop this spreading disease is such a great partnership between dogs and humans to do good. The dogs get to enjoy some more outdoor time and the feeling of accomplishment. We get to keep our food supply up. Finally, the bees get to keep on keeping on!
Save the bees. Share this information. Help our dogs help the bees. Dogs are remarkable creatures. Give them a job and they won’t disappoint you. Hooray for teaming up with other species to help each other out!