Big Buzz! Exploring the secret obsession of nature’s neatniks at CRAM, April 5

On April 5, inquiring minds from across the Greater Toronto Area are invited to a special evening of learning and discovery at CRAM, the first free learning festival of its kind in Canada. From 5 to 11 p.m., Toronto’s four universities will open their doors to the public to share some truly fascinating and novel research experiences that would not normally be available to the public. York University is taking this festival in a totally innovative direction with a slew of research events, a presidential panel, food trucks and more.

This article is part of a series that profiles events taking place at York University’s Keele Campus.

Amro Zayed, professor of biology in the Faculty of Health, is fascinated by everything and anything to do with bees. Zayed will set CRAM a buzz with his presentation titled, Busy Bees: The Secret Obsession of Nature’s Neatniks, which will take place at 7 p.m. in Vari Hall B.

Humans are social beings and so are honey bees. And when up to 80,000 of them live together, like good roommates, they devise ways to keep things clean and healthy. Bees groom each other, clean their surroundings and even eject sick or diseased larvae from the colony to ensure the health of the hive. Zayed and the researchers in his lab discovered that this neatnik behaviour is embedded in the DNA of bees. He will share his groundbreaking discovery of the bee’s “clean” genes, and how he believes this unconscious drive can be harnessed to help improve bee health and ensure the planet’s food security.

The following video features an interview with Zayed about the impact of neonic pesticides on bee health.

Zayed is an associate professor of biology and York University’s Research Chair in Genomics. Zayed leads a research program on the genetics, genomics and behaviour of social insects using the honey bee as a model organism. He carries out fundamental research on the genetics of bee behaviour and is pioneering the use of genomics to develop tools to improve the health of managed bees. He received the Governor General’s Gold Medal in 2007, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Early Researcher Award in 2010, and the Faculty of Science’s Early Career Researcher Award in 2014, a York Research Chair in 2015 and the York University President’s Emerging Research Leadership Award in 2017. He was recently awarded the Entomological Society of Canada’s Gordon C. Hewitt Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entomology.

CRAM happens on April 5 from 5 to 11 p.m. at York University’s Keele Campus. Each research event will last approximately 25 minutes and includes a Q-and-A with the featured researcher. CRAM events will take place in Vari Hall, 198 York Blvd., Keele Campus. There’s no cost to attend, but organizers request that participants register their intent to attend (it helps with planning the event).