Honeybees have been studied for many years for many different purposes. As social insects, they provide a unique framework for answering questions and conducting experiments. They have been studied by molecular biologists, bee keepers, and behavioral ecologists, among other disciplines.
Honeybees are vital members of any ecosystem, and promoting the existence of honeybees provides a myriad of benefits to the surrounding community. As important pollinators, they are directly or indirectly responsible for pollinating up to a third of our food crops. In recent years, honeybee populations have been dramatically declining - a phenomenon known as Collony Collapse Disorder. Much research is still being done to examine the many causes of this collapse. Recent studies implicate neonicotinoids, common pesticides, as the primary cause of the decline.
During Sarah Dawson's Wildlife Conservation for a Change Planet course, students were introduced to several speakers that work in different areas of environmental preservation. One of these speakers, Pennsylvania Master Apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, made quite an impression on one student. Veronica Thomas 11' was so taken with the idea of studying bees and causes of their worldwide collapse that she proposed the creation of a honeybee apiary at Franklin & Marshall College. She applied for the Dean's Office's annual Sustainability Award and was awarded enough funding to get the project started. Thomas’ research was related to training bees to avoid plants that have been exposed to pesticides and herbicides. These plants are toxic to bees, and this research showed that it was possible to train bee populations to avoid them. Work on widespread application continues today with a cohort of F&M research students.