Fascination with bees takes graduate toward a Ph.D.
Bees affect people’s everyday lives, says Liz Walsh ’14 of Watertown, Wisconsin. They directly pollinate about one-third of the food we eat; bee venom is used in arthritis treatments; and queen food is used in human fertility drugs.
“The list of cool things goes on and on,” she says.
But bees are in danger of becoming extinct because of human practices, and she hopes to help reverse that. She won second place for a research report on the topic at the Beta Beta Beta (the national biology honor society) conference at St. Xavier’s in Chicago, Illinois, earlier this year.
“I examined how bees treat their queen when their queen is reared in beeswax that is contaminated with chemicals that beekeepers put into their hives to address honey bee parasite problems,” Walsh says. “The idea was that queens who attracted more attendants would be better taken care of and longer-lived, so the chemicals could have a large impact on overall colony health through their impact on queen attractiveness.”
This fall, she will pursue a Ph.D. in entomology at Texas A&M University.
Walsh has been a beekeeper for seven years since a high school friend introduced her to her hives. “I got hooked and bees just sort of took over my life after that, to the point where my at-home job is at a bee-keeping supply store,” Walsh says. Walsh has been the Dodge/Jefferson Honey Queen, and sales of honey from her own bees, Queen B Honey, have helped pay her college tuition.
On campus, she is part of EGOR, a student environmental group that supports sustainability on campus. Walsh has cared for the bees in two honey bee hives sponsored by EGOR on the Ceresco Prairie.
“It’s a very rewarding hobby because the bees do all the work, but you either enable the bees to work or you stop the bees from working,” she says.
Tsering Yangchen ’14 Madison, Wis.