Dogs are a man’s best friend; dogs serve in the military, in the police forces. Dogs assist people with disabilities, but did you know dogs protect commercial honeybees as well?
Meet Mack, a 5-year-old Labrador Retriever from Maryland. Mack isn’t just a regular dog, he’s in charge of the wealth of the honeybee population of Maryland and indirectly of America.
While it is estimated that one-third of America’s crops require pollination and one-third of the food that we consume relies on pollination, mostly by bees, Mack works hard to prevent the destruction of the bee population in America.
The American Foulbrood (AFB) is a ruinous honeybee colony disease which infects and destroys bee hives all over America.
Cybil Preston is Mack’s owner, she’s the chief apiary inspector for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, she inspects the honeybee colonies to make sure they are disease-free. Preston and Mack work together to fight the destructive disease and ensure that infected colonies aren’t shipped to other states. It is crucial because once the disease is spread, it could destroy the local bee population.
Preston says that a dead larva could affect one million spores. Though the disease can’t harm people, it can rapidly spread out from hive to hive and kill bees. She further explains that once a hive dies, other bees come to steal its honey and catch the disease as well. This is where Mack’s job starts.
The bee dog is certified to spot the scent of dead bee larva so that they won’t ship it to other states and spread out the devastating disease. Mack does the most effective work because while humans must open the hives to check whether they are infected, Mack is trained to sniff the beehives from the outside and alert the inspector when he spots an infected AFB hives.
Tracing AFB isn’t an easy job to do, the bees aren’t happy with creatures getting near their colonies, so Mack gets stung from time to time. This is one of the main reasons why Mack works in the cold weather when the bees are dormant. While humans inspect the AFB only when it gets warmer, Mack’s work during the winter allows the inspection to continue all year long.
Mack was adopted when he was younger than 2-years-old, and it didn’t take long until he was certified to be an AFB detector. It wasn’t easy to train Mack since she has never done that before. The bee dog is an asset, he is well trained and can inspect over a thousand hives a month.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services helped a lot. Preston says they used drills and games to train Mack on scent detection using special AFB props. It took them about six months to complete the training and be certified.
Since Mack’s work has been so successful his owner decided to expand the family and adopt a Beagle-cross. The new addition to the family named Clack, unfortunately, didn’t manage to be as good as Mack but he was pretty lazy.
Preston was motivated to expand the inspectors team so she adopted Tukka. An energetic springer spaniel, Tukka. She was very playful so her training required more time and attention. Now she has her dreamy A team, they can inspect more colonies and protect the honeybee population on a higher scale.
The team leader, Preston says that dogs love inspecting, it’s like a game for them. They are so happy when they start working and when work is over, they are both content to curl up with Preston for snuggles.
Thank you Mack, Tukka and Preston for your hard work!