October 3, 2017

The Jive Inside the Hive

By Derecka Alexander

One Health is not a brand new concept, but it is still going through some growing pains as the concept gains some traction in the mainstream. Under the One Health umbrella, different disciplines work together to figure out how to maintain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment. At the One Health Academy in D.C., health professionals interested in One Health dialogue and social engagement meet monthly to discuss issues. I took the opportunity to attend this month’s meeting that featured Dr. Terry Kane, DVM, MS, who talked about the wonderful world of bees.

Confession: I am afraid of bees! I’ve never been stung, but I am too melodramatic about suffering the same consequence the character Thomas J sufferers in the movie My Girl.

Dr. Kane went from private practitioner at a feline veterinary hospital to AVMA Congressional Fellow to currently working as the “A2Bee” vet. Reporters around the country have media outlets talking about how the pollinators of this country are in trouble. It was nice to hear the veterinary perspective on this.

That night, I learned that beekeeping has been in practice for millennia. The Egyptians are recorded as the first beekeepers (shout out to the Motherland, Africa). Scientists know that pollination is essential for an ecosystem’s survival. Farmers rely on pollinators for over 100 different kinds of crops. A threat to bees can lead to a threat to our nation’s food supply and have major effects on a multi-million dollar industry!

Dance is considered a universal language that transcends different cultures and animal species. Despite my fear, I found myself slipping into a space where I envisioned bees busily buzzing around in a synchronized manner. I let my guard down and allowed my love for animals to grow through the connection of dance. Bees dance y’all!

Dr. Kane talked about how uncoded bits of RNA produced by plants are picked up by bees and are used to create their waggle dance. Bees have an internal GPS that allows for them to create coordinates through the form of dance. This waggle dance communicates to the other bees where the flowers are. Researchers are using computer analysis techniques to uncode the waggle dance and figure out where these flowers are, too. All of this is done in hopes of understanding and treating the colony collapse disorder, which is a global issue.

Important research like this is needed to help vets understand how to treat bees on a bee farm. It’s great knowing that there are veterinary schools currently incorporating the latest bee information into curricula to help prepare the vets of tomorrow. I don’t think any veterinarian everThe Jive Inside the Hive- Bee Talk of BEEcoming a vet for bees. This profession never ceases to amaze me.