July 16, 2015
Ollie the Bumblebee Dog Creating a Buzz
It is no secret that the population of bumblebees and other bee species has been on the decline over the past few decades, which is not good news for farmers in the fruit and vegetable industries. Farmers rely on bumblebees, honeybees, and other pollinators to pollinate their crops – without pollination, we stand to lose thousands of crops every year. There is good news for bumblebees, however, and it comes from an unexpected source – the bumblebee sniffing dog named Ollie is coming to the rescue of the colony collapse disorder.
Pollination specialist David Pattemore and his dog Ollie have been training how to smell out bumblebee queens in an effort to help Kiwi growers in New Zealand. In an interview done with 3News.co.nz, Pattemore explains that “The cost for hiring honeybees has increased so much we think it's time to find a second managed pollinator species for growers ..." The lucrative Manuka honey industry has made honeybees a hot commodity, so bumblebees are a much more cost effective pollinator alternative.
In addition to being a most cost effective option for farmers, bumblebees are actually a heartier species. Unlike their honeybee cousins, bumblebees are not as susceptible to diseases and varroa mites. Additionally, bumblebees are able to fly and work in heavier winds and rain than honeybees. Finally, bumblebees are actually harder workers - their larger, furry bodies are able to do the work of upwards of 50 of their honeybee cousins.
Another great benefit of using bumblebees is that this bee species does not require a special hive in which to live much like honeybees do. Home for a bumblebee is simply a hole in the ground, or a “bunker,” which means farmers will not have to purchase beehives in order to house their bees. The goal is to use Ollie the bumblebee sniffing dog to find queen bumblebees in their nests in order for researchers to find out more about how to build the best bumblebee habitats possible.
"Our initial aim is to just make a bumblebee box that queens like to nest in," said Pattemore. While Ollie is helping to create a buzz and awareness around the bumblebees and how they can substitute for the work done by honeybees, he is still a puppy at just seven months old. Pattemore and Ollie still have a lot of training to do to help sharpen Ollie’s bumblebee finding and detecting skills.