ASU home to cutting edge Honey Bee Research Lab

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(Source: 3TV/CBS5) (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Arizona State University's Honey Bee Research Lab is a hub of research and academic activity.

"The bee lab initially was engaged in a bee breeding program, to breed bees that were more effective pollinators," said Dr. Robert Page with the ASU School of Life Sciences.

Over the last decade, their work has expanded quite a bit.

"We are studying the colony collapse disorder," Dr. Page said. "Looking at the ways in which we can vaccinate bees against specific kinds of diseases."

They also do research on memory and learning. "Bees are wonderful models for understanding how information is processed and stored, also very good models for looking at the effects of drug abuse and drug addiction on learning and performance."

That is just a sampling of the swarm of studies happening at the lab at any given time.

"It is seen as being the center of the universe for social insect studies because not only do we have a very large bee research group here, we also have the world's largest ant research group here at ASU," said Dr. Page.

The facility is at ASU's Polytechnic Campus in east Mesa.

It is the largest bee research program in North America, outside of the USDA Bee Lab.

"80 hives and there are about 50 thousand bees in each one," said Lab Project Manager Dr. Osman Kaftanoglu.

That equates to four million bees among all the hives.

Our crew wore protective suits out of an abundance of caution but the bees are quite calm and gentle, as they're not Africanized.

The research happening at the lab effects everyone in one way or another.

"Something on the order of 85 percent of all agricultural crops that come to your table have in some way been touched by bees even the ice cream that you eat," Dr. Page said.

Tiny insects, big impact.

The lab supports cutting-edge research, attracting groups from all over the world. When our crew visited there was a team from Germany there.

Dr. Page told us they were working on transforming the genome of bees to be able to silence genes.

"This is very cutting-edge research not just for bees but across the animal kingdom in general, just the idea that we can go in and silence genes and then study the effects of single genes one by one," said Dr. Page.

In addition to the amazing scientific work, they also train future Honey Beekeepers through a continuing education course.

If beekeeping isn't your thing you can still take a tour of the lab, the public is welcome by appointment.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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