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Conservation dogs help researchers locate bumblebee nests


MILWAUKEE – When researchers wanted to collect data on wild bumblebee nests this past summer, they turned to man’s best friend to help sniff them out.


What you need to know

  • Wasp nests are difficult to locate
  • Dogs help sniff out the nests of 20 species of wasps
  • They are used to identify invasive species as well as turtle species

One is affectionately named Betty White, and her accomplice is Ernie. The two spent the summer searching for wasp nests for researchers.

“Overall, beehives are just super hard for humans to find on their own. Laura Holder of the organization Dog Conservation Foundation.

Their slogan is “Make a Difference”.

(Spectrum News 1 / Jon Fuller)

The dogs are trained to locate about 20 species of Wisconsin’s wild bumblebees.

On a recent training day in Wauwatosa, Holder hid parts of the nest for the dogs to locate.

“We train with different volumes of bumblebee nesting material. In the wild, there can be a small nest or a really big one,” explains Holder.

Dogs’ superior sense of smell makes it possible for them to locate nests and collect data on these important pollinators.

“These dogs are super impressive. When they find a nest, they know exactly where it is,” said Jade Kochanski, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. graduted student.

(Spectrum News 1 / Jon Fuller)

With a keen interest in pollinators, Kochanski witnessed working dogs this summer.

“If we can increase the efficiency and accuracy of finding wasp nests, that could help us answer research questions,” explains Kochanski. “Are there species-specific differences in their nesting preferences? Will prairie restoration help them? “

The dogs love to run and sniff, but their contributions are invaluable.

“Finding a correlation between where they feed and where they find their nests is an important piece of information that is missing today,” Holder said.

(Spectrum News 1 / Jon Fuller)

Mr Holder said: “Sniffing around for bees sounds like you’re looking for trouble, but problems are rare. She brought Benadryl with her just in case.

“Bumblebees, you have to make them uncomfortable because of you or let the dog get stung,” says Holder.

Dogs can spot more than just beehives. They can also help locate invasive species such as the New Zealand mud snail.

“We just got a team back from Iowa last week. They are doing surveys of ornate box turtles. Mr. Holder said.

Practice is an emerging field that continues to provide useful data for scientists – no doubt, it will also keep Ernie and Betty White’s precious noses pretty busy.

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