Many people only associate bees with their stingers, but bumblebees are essential for keeping the planet thriving. Without bumblebees, plant life would slowly die off, and then animal life would soon follow. That’s why Darwin the “Bee Dog” has such an important job. He’s the first conservation dog that works specifically on saving bumblebees.
Darwin gets excited to go to work, and he has helped Jacqueline Staab locate lots of bee nests for research. Together, this duo hopes to save the declining bee population. Of course, Darwin has fun doing it too!
Ready for the Challenge
The military in Great Britain once trained dogs to sniff out bee nests, so Staab wondered why no dogs in America were trained to do so. Staab is a bee researcher with Appalachian State University in North Carolina. She says that information about bumblebee nests is limited, so she visits Colorado to search for data.
But finding bee nests is near impossible unless you stumble upon them. That’s why Staab knew she could benefit from having Darwin help her. Finding someone to train Darwin was no easy task though. Many trainers had no interest in taking on something so bizarre.
“I called a bunch of people and they were like, ‘what? I’ll get back to you never. Bumblebees, are you crazy?'” Staab said.
But then, Highland K-9 in Harmony, North Carolina decided to give it a try. They gradually trained Darwin to sniff out the materials of a bumblebee nest without accidentally detecting other materials. He quickly picked up on training, and now he can easily sniff out bees in the Colorado mountains. He often wears cute little shoes and goggles to protect him from the environment.
Darwin Protects the Bees
Every time Darwin locates a bumblebee nest, Staab stops to take as many notes as possible. She pays attention to the species of bee, the measurements of the slope the nest is on, how well drained the soil is, and how far the nest is from the nearest linear feature.
The bumblebee population is declining, so this information could help lead to more conservation in the spots where lots of bees live. Even with so much scientific research out there, lots of the information about bee nests remains unknown. But Staab and Darwin are determined to uncover more necessary research.
“Bumblebees are worth billions of dollars to the U.S. economy every year, not to mention the intrinsic value, but also the value to ecosystems,” Staab said.
Staab said that Darwin loves all the adventures and that he’s always ready for a challenge. He has lots of energy, so the long Colorado hikes are right up his alley. Hopefully, his hard work will help save the bees and our planet.