Current Projects (2014 research season)
For the last several years, we have been conducting field experiments to experimentally manipulate oxidative stress and aging, particularly how migratory stress is manifest onto individual bees and colonies. These samples continue to be measured in the laboratory for genetic and physiological markers of DNA, protein, and lipid oxidative damage. This project is funded by the US Army Research Laboratory in collaboration with Olav Rueppell (UNC-G) and Mimi Strand (USARL).
Our MS student, Holden Appler, is finishing up his thesis research investigating honey bees under different management regiemes (feral, beekeeper, and experimental) across an urban gradient (urban, suburban, and rural). He is measuring both various aspects of immune function (e.g., encapsulation response, phenoloxidase levels) and disease ecology (e.g., virus prevalence, Nosema infection) to see how management and urban landscape affect bee health.
Jennifer Keller is spearheading a study investigating potential control of small hive beetles using various biopesticides, specifically entomopathogenic fungi and protease inhibitors. These may help beekeepers control the damaging larval stage of SHBs, for which there are currently no control strategies.
In collaboration with Tim Linksvayer at the University of Pennsylvania and funded by the USDA-AFRI, we are starting a new major project using in vitro rearing techniques to quantify "queenliness". At issue is to see how much genetic variation there is in rearing high-quality queens, if that genetic variation is heritable, and if the causative genes underlying this variation produce strains with increased queen reproductive quality.
We will be rearing queens of high- and low-reproductive quality and introduce them as virgin queens to observation hives in order to see which may have an advantage in fatal queen fights. Moreover, we will be recording which workers interact with the dueling queens to see if relatedness has any bearing on the outcomes of these competitive bouts. This project is in collaboration with Stan Schneider and his lab at UNC-Charlotte.
We are planting buffer strips in various human-disturbed habitats (golf courses, roadsides, and construction sites) to see how they may attract and bolster local pollinator communities. Danesha Seth Carley (Crop Science) and Rich McLaughlin (Soil Science) are major collaborators who will also be measuring other important ecosystem services, namely water infiltration.
Carl Giuffre, a Biomathematics PhD student in our program, will be following up on his previous work on an automated grooming assay. Moreover, he will be testing automatically measured movement models of varroa mites in response to drone- vs. worker-brood pheromone. Their preference in host will then be correlated with the level of virus infection to see if the viruses that mites vector have any bearing on their behavior.