Working with bees
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View Dr Mark Goodwin of Plant & Food Research working with honey bees at an open hive, using smoke to calm them. Hear about some of things that Mark finds amazing and exciting about bees and learn some of the occupational hazards of working with stinging insects.
DR MARK GOODWIN
I’ve always been fascinated with bees. I had the advantage that my father used to be a beekeeper before I was born, but when I was growing up, there was all these bits of bee equipment that were fun to play with, so it was in my genes I think somewhere. Then when I was looking for a topic to do research on, bees came up and very quickly I decided this is the exciting thing.
Bees are capable of doing so many things. We can teach them how to do things. They have dance language, they can communicate with each other so we can really look inside their heads and work out what they’re thinking at different times. We can manage them to get them to do some of the things that we want to do to improve pollination and honey production. And the other thing is they’re so important to human beings. They’re part of our culture. Our lifestyles would not be the same if we didn’t have bees to pollinate fruit. So they tick all of those boxes, and it’s exciting stuff, it really is.
Bees have some particular challenges in working with them because they do sting. Mostly, there’s lots of different ways you can do to avoid it, and as long as you use protective clothing when you need to and do the right sort of things, you’re not going to get stung. But the problem with beekeepers and scientists who work with bees is we always take shortcuts, and there are times when you should use protective clothing that you don’t, so there’s always lots of stories of bad things that happen because you were doing not the right things.
My record for bee stings is getting 40 bee stings on one ankle, but it’s just an occupational hazard I guess. The excitement you get out of working with them pays a million times for the odd bee sting that you get.
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