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Cafe Society to discuss the wonderful world of bees

By Staff | Jul 1, 2016

The next session of the Cafe Society on July 5 will discuss the important role that the lowly honey bee plays in our lives and efforts to better understand them.It will be more than just a discussion of their critical biological function and place in the agricultural ecosystems that we depend upon, but a larger, hopefully deeper appreciation of the different ways in which mankind is irrevocably changing the world.

These informal weekly discussions , an integral part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin, who is also a local beekeeper, stated, “I have been working with bees since I retired from government service in 2004 and am still fascinated by everything about them. It seems that the more we learn, the more we realize how limited our comprehension really is of how they function and interact with our environment.

“It is like trying to paint the proverbial train. The refreshing thing is that in this cynical, sarcastic world the average citizen sincerely cares about the bees and often goes out of his or her way to help or protect them.

“It is hard to believe that these cantankerous, unpredictable little bugs manage to generate such veneration and support. Part of the answer is that recent efforts to understand the “colony collapse” phenomenon and assess repercussions if unresolved have generated significant news media interest. And that in turn has resulted in governmental follow-up to provide funds for basic exploratory work in both governmental and private sector research centers. Of course the sophistication of research methods and equipment has greatly improved in recent years.”

Austin went on to say, “Marvelous and complex as the solitary honey bee is, their significance and unique capabilities are exponentially expanded by virtue of the social structure of the colony.

“Their ability to engineer and control the environment within the hive, to adjust for seasonal weather changes, to sense when there is a need to replace a failing queen, or to manage the process of propagation is mind boggling. Even more intriguing is the process by which decisions are made (how and by whom) to control the essential functions within the hive. We are making steady progress in resolving some of these mysteries — the answers to which may yet prove to be of immense value. Many people believe that they are playing the role of the “Canary in the mine shaft.” Whether we will take heed, is an open question.”