Student bee researchers create a buzz

Three biology graduate students created a buzz at a national gathering of entomologists last week when they won prizes for talks and a poster about their bee research.

Bee researcher Laurence Packer with grad students, seated from left, Mariya Cheryomina, Brock Harpur and Nadia Tsvetkov

Brock Harpur won Entomological Society of Canada’s President’s Award for best student talk in insect physiology and molecular biology. The PhD candidate spoke about his research in population genomics of the honey bee. Using a huge database of 53 honey bee genomes, he is looking at how worker honey bees have adapted and acquired different traits, such as aggression, immunity, foraging behavior and honey collection, traits valued by the beekeeping industry. His research is testing longstanding hypotheses about adaptation and selection of worker bees in relation to the queen bee. Harpur’s paper on the topic is under review for publication in a scientific journal.

Nadia Tsvetkov won the runner-up award for best talk in insect behavior and biological control. She is doing her master’s research on the effects of social environment on honey bee learning. She has found that bees raised in isolation are more sensitive to reward and don’t learn as well as bees raised in a group.

Mariya Cheryomina received the runner-up award for best poster. She is doing her master’s research on how habitat loss, parasitic infections and pesticide-use is causing the decline of wild bumble bee populations in southeastern Ontario. The three students made their award-winning presentations at the joint annual meetings of the Entomological Society of Canada and Ontario in Guelph Oct. 20 to 23.

Amro Zayed is Harpur’s and Tsvetkov’s research supervisor. Laurence Packer and Bridget Stutchbury are Cheryomina’s research supervisors.