There are many stories concerning the decline of the honeybee; however, the bumblebee is also now reaching a large decline in numbers which has become an environmental worry. Out of the United Kingdom’s 25 varieties of bumblebees, three have become extinct and several others are in danger of extinction. In the United States, beekeepers in 24 states have also watched their bumblebee population decline at an alarming rate.
However, in England, a little rescued English Springer Spaniel is being trained by the army as the world’s first bee-sniffing dog. “If we are going to conserve them, we need to know more about them,” says Professor Dave Goulson of Stirling University’s School of Biological and Environmental Sciences. “We need to know where they live and what causes the nests to die.”
That is what Toby is trained to do. The Springer Spaniel is able to detect the nests which are often small and hidden underground; which also makes them vulnerable to badgers. It was believed that if a badger could sniff out the bee’s nest, so could a canine.
According to a study at Cornell University, it is estimated that bees pollinate more than $14 billion worth of fruits, vegetables and nuts in the United States. “Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food,” said Zac Browning, Vice President of the American Beekeeping Federation. Conservation is critical.
Toby and his handler, Steph O’Connor are sponsored by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the UK. The trust was set up two years ago to study and halt the bee’s decline.