As part of the monthly Science On Tap series, co-hosted by the Center for Communicating Science, Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology and Extension Apiculturist James Wilson first had to answer the question of how honeybees keep their hair tidy.
“I don’t know if I’ve heard that one before,” he laughed. “There’s some great bee jokes out there.”
Wilson, Science on Tap’s March speaker at the River Mill in downtown Blacksburg, has always been fascinated by insects—particularly bees—and has dedicated his career to them. He is part of a research team at Virginia Tech studying their movements and behavior.
“Two of our research projects are to see if some areas are better suited for pollinating,” Wilson stated. “This is the kind of stuff we’ve been doing at Tech for over 40 years.”
Tech is only one part of a $29 billion industry that has only recently started to pick up the pieces as bees face colony collapse disorder. Wilson hopes that educating the public on just how important bees are to our food production will be a step in the right direction for their survival.
“There are all kind of fascinating things to talk about with honey, bees, and how they function as a society,” he said. “It’s a nonstop system.”
A round of trivia and audience participation on how a bee colony works with participants being handed different honeybee colony ranks capped off the night. The winner of the trivia game got to take home her very own jar of organic honey.
For anyone deciding to start a backyard bee colony, Wilson offers this advice: “It’s a lot more fun if you have more than one hive. That way you have a better sample size and can compare the houses and learn from them, especially if something goes wrong in one.”
And how do bees keep their hair tidy? With their honey-combs, of course!
By Nicole Elbin, Center for Communicating Science student intern