NOTRE DAME JOINS UNIVERSITY RESEARCH PROJECT

June 22, 2020

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Along with the Center for Honeybee Research and North Carolina State University, Notre Dame's beekeeping students will be participating in a nationwide study of thermal treatments to control parasitic mites in apiaries.

Heating elements were added to the bottom of Notre Dame's beehives to kill mites and mite larva, wax moth larva, and small hive beetles without harming healthy bees.


Notre Dame recently joined in some important research with the Center for Honeybee Research and North Carolina State University that focuses on analyzing the benefits of using thermal treatments to decrease viral loads carried by the Varroa destructor mite, which has led to serious issues with the world's honeybee population.

According to Jocelynn Yaroch, science teacher and department chair, treating hives thermally is a relatively new method to fight of the parasitic mite, a major contributor to the demise of bee colonies globally. Chemicals also have been effective, but the mites are developing resistance, and the treatments sometimes don't work—or even backfire, for example, as some prevent the queen bees from laying eggs.

"Last Tuesday marked the first honey extraction this season from the Notre Dame apiary as well as the first two thermal mite treatments," Yaroch said. "This is the second year that our hives are using heat to kill the Varroa mite, a major contributor to colony collapses. As the hives heat up, many of the bees will leave the hive to avoid the heat. The heat is primarily meant to treat the brood, or bee babies, so that they are born mite and virus free."

National research

This summer also marks the first time Notre Dame's beekeepers are participating in a national research collaboration with the Center for Honeybee Research on a study to measure the effectiveness of thermal treatment on the viral load in honeybees. Samples of live bees from NDPMA hives before thermal treatment and bees two weeks after treatment will be sent to North Carolina State University for viral analysis. Yaroch said the data will be compiled with the data from hives around the country in an effort to understand and combat the role of viruses in contributing to colony collapse disorder. 

The Varroa mite, a major contributor to colony collapses, is shown here attached to the body of a honeybee. It feeds on the fat reserves of adult bees and larvae.


"Members of the Notre Dame Bee Club, which includes our middle and high school students, will participate in the sample collections that will take place within the next month," Yaroch said. "Two of our hives are near the end of their thermal treatment with the Mighty Mite Killer, produced by Beehive Thermal Industries."

The school bee club is part of a wider initiative at NDPMA called the Sustainability Project, which teaches students how the school mission ties into environmental stewardship and increases student involvement in developing biodiversity on the campus.

Risk of extinction

For years now, scientists have been warning about the decline of the honeybee population worldwide. Since bees are an essential part of the production of food for human civilization, without enough of them, many of the world's crops will not get the necessary pollination they need to grow.

Among the more than 1,000 native bee species in the world today, more than half still are in decline, while 347 native bee species are at an increased risk of extinction, according to a 2017 report from the Center for Biological Diversity.

As a result of the drumbeat of warnings from the CBD and others who know and study bees, there has been an increase in hobbyists, farmers, companies and organizations who keep bees, including Notre Dame, all of whom are enhancing the chances of bees thriving today and into the future.

Proceeds from the sale of honey from Notre Dame's beehives are reinvested in the beekeeping operations.


Yaroch noted also that more than 14 pounds of honey was extracted last week from just five of the beehive frames.

"It sold out in less than 24 hours to members of the Notre Dame family," she said. "But we will have at least two more extractions this summer and I've started a waitlist for those who couldn't get any during this first round."

Yaroch also said they are going to attempt to make comb honey, which involves cutting the honeycomb free from its frame and then subdividing the comb into smaller pieces, using the school's strongest hive.

Tying school mission to environmental stewardship

"Whether it's liquid honey or comb honey, all of the money for its sale gets turned right back around and invested in the apiary that already has grown by two more hives this year," she said.

It is our goal as science educators to teach our students how our mission ties into environmental stewardship and increase student involvement in developing biodiversity on the Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy campus.

For more information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions on this story? mkelly@ndpma.org

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three school are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.

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