University of Findlay Students Creating a Buzz With Unique Bee Research
University of Findlay students recently worked with faculty members to address the invasive and ornamental Callery pear tree after it was placed on the invasive species list by the state of Ohio in 2018. During their discussion of removing the invasive trees, students developed concern for the pollinators (bees) in the area. Concern led to discussion, and eventually, students began research on the bees that pollinate the Callery pear trees.
Associate biology professor, Ben Dolan, Ph.D. led the students’ research and helped work with students as they began collecting bees for sampling and research. “These students are now doing science, and not just learning about it. They get to learn the scientific process while also showcasing their critical thinking skills,” said Dolan. With very little research being done on bees and the Callery pear tree, Dolan said his students had the opportunity to do something unique, “with this type of research they get to ask a question that no one has the answer to, and then work to uncover the necessary data to get an answer.”
Since 2018, students and Dolan have been collecting samples of carpenter bees, European honeybees, Andrena mining bees, and wasps during the month of April each year (when the Callery pear tree blooms). Using tubes, pans, nets, and vacuums, students collected bees and logged the data. One of those students was junior Animal Science/Pre-Vet major Madeline Haase, who admitted that collecting bees was her favorite part. “It was amazing! It was kind of intimidating and a little scary because I have never done research before. Once I started to learn more from the research and started to gain new skills, I really started to enjoy my time,” said Haase.
Senior Animal Science/Pre-Vet major, Paige Chernisky was focused on making the most of her college experience and found it in Dolan’s research project. “Undergraduate research wasn’t something I was expecting to get the chance to do, and I wasn’t expecting to get published. It came as a result of me looking to make the most out of my time in college, but I’m so glad I was able to be part of this,” said Chernisky. Chernisky is using the research on her veterinarian school applications, stating “the research was something so different from what I normally do and study. It was specifically biology and ecology, whereas many other students are focusing solely on animal research. This research allowed me to diversify my experience and set myself apart from other students.”
After collecting the bees and recording the data, the time came to start writing. Haase and Chernisky worked with a few other students to write the research paper, sharing their findings. Years of hard work paid off when the research was published by MDPI, a publisher of open-access scientific journals. The research journal can be found here in its entirety.
Nearly five years after starting the project, students found that the bees pollinated both planted and feral Callery pear trees. They also found that the same bees that were caught pollinating Callery pear trees, were also pollinating other area trees and flowers. The research showed that bees were not reliant upon the Callery pear trees for pollination.
Due to the state-wide ban on the sale and distribution of the invasive trees as of 2023, many villages and towns are looking to replace the Callery pear trees that line their streets. The research done by University of Findlay students and faculty found that it may be ok to consider removing the trees. “The trees are not affecting the pollinators (bees) in a negative way, meaning it wouldn’t be a bad thing to remove the invasive trees entirely,” said Haase.