Portrait of a bee biologist – Tom Seeley

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Tom-Seeley-2014-fullTom Seeley is probably the most famous living bee biologist, renowned as author of a number of major books such as “The wisdom of the hive” and “Honey bee democracy”.

In the latest issue of Bee World, published in August, Editor Dr. Kirsten Traynor interviews Prof. Seeley about how his interest in bees began, and his working methods.

His interest in bees began young, and was crystallised whilst working one summer helping a professor at Cornell when he was a High School student. This led to the collection of his first honey bee swarm.

He says:

“This experience of watching these bees is what really hooked me”.

Prof. Seeley explains how his interest was sparked in the big picture of how a honey bee colony choses between the many different possible food sources over the large area around its home to achieve efficient foraging. He also reveals why remote locations such as islands and forests can be such useful sites to carry out these studies.

An important component of his recent work has been studying the feral colonies living in trees in the remote and isolated Arnot Forest in New York State. These have for many years survived the presence of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, thought to be the major cause of worldwide colony losses, without the help of man. A shortly to be published study is looking at the DNA of these survivor bees to see what clues they may provide to help beekeepers fight the mite without recourse to chemical treatments.

Bee World Editor Kirsten Traynor says:

“Tom Seeley combines the rare qualities of wit with humbleness. He has achieved the work/life balance so many scientists struggle to find. He was a pleasure to interview for our new column on the “Scientist behind the Science” and emphasized the importance of exploratory descriptive research before “mucking about” and “tinkering” with a system for an experiment.”

You can also read FULL INTERVIEW.

Source: International Bee Research Association

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