Mariah McDonald & Spencer Jones: “Exploring the Magical World of Honey Bees” | Talks at Google

MARIAH MCDONALD: Who are we? Why are we here? And what do we do,
you may wonder. We are a couple. We are a couple of kooky
nature nerds trying to do our part to make a
difference in this vastly evolving world. As we are among the
privileged humans who get to walk this planet, and
as humans are arguably the most privileged of all the
species, Spencer and I have turned our lives’
focus and passion to much smaller and
often misunderstood creatures that are in need of
a little extra help these days. These creatures we speak of
go by the Latin name Apis mellifera, also known
as the honey bee. The honey bee plays
an indispensable role in the survival of a large
portion of all the plant life on Earth and for the
survival of the creatures that eat the fruits of her soil,
including us lucky humans. If we all work together, we
can help preserve the ecosystem for honey bees
and, subsequently, for future generations. My name is Mariah McDonald. This is my partner in love,
life, and business, Spencer Jones. We own and operate a honey bee
rescue and education company called Swarm and Tender. And we are here today to
share with you a little part of the magic
world of honey bees. [APPLAUSE] SPENCER JONES: Thank you. So why do we call it the
magic world of honey bees? Aside from their
ability to fly with such a small wing-to-body mass ratio,
often considered by science as an anomaly in early studies,
or a miracle, so to speak, there are thousands
of years of lore from all over the
world regarding honey bees as a sign of magic. Several deities are associated
with bees and honey, Aphrodite, Ra, and Pan,
just to name a few– Pan, if you will. MARIAH MCDONALD: And
Vishnu, I think, as well. SPENCER JONES: Vishnu as well. In this slide of an Egyptian
tomb and ancient hieroglyph and carving, you
can see that there is much reverence for the
bees, and the pharaohs from ancient Egypt
often used the honey bee and honey itself as a symbol of
royalty for up to 3,000 years. MARIAH MCDONALD:
This other image we have here is an example
of some modern-day magic. This picture is taken
in Tibet, and this man is about 300 feet
up on a rope ladder, holding, with one stick, a
basket, and another stick, a slicing device that
actually harvests the honey from the cliff sides. This is a tradition that’s
been happening for thousands of years in Tibet and Nepal. And this species of
honey bee is actually the largest known species
of honey bee in the world. And another little tricky
magic of this specific honey and these bees is, they
forage on a specific type of plant called a Rhododendron. And it’s actually a specific
type of Rhododendron that has a psychotrophic
constituent in the nectar that the honey bees harvest. So the honey that these
people are harvesting is actually psychedelic honey. SPENCER JONES: So that
specific rope ladder that they were using, hanging
cliffside in Nepal and Tibet, is actually a long-used
tool of the trade. This cave painting from Spain
is dated anywhere between 8,000 to 15,000 years old,
depending on who you ask, and depicts
a woman or a man, kind of an androgynous figure– a choose your gender figure– climbing this rope ladder
to harvest exactly what we saw in the previous
slide, a comb of honeycomb and with honey bees
flying all around her. I like to say her because you
kind of have to be a feminist to be a beekeeper. MARIAH MCDONALD: And we’ll
get into that further. The other image we have up here
is an ancient coin from Greece. And the honey bee
was also regarded as a token of magic in Greece,
and was often associated with the goddess Aphrodite. And Aphrodite’s priestesses, who
worshipped her and held temple to her, were actually
called honey bees. We’re making reference to some
of this historical reverence that humans and
honey bees have had for each other for
thousands of years. Moving from ancient
history into a little bit more modern science
of honey bees, we’re going to now start to talk
about the culture and systems within the bee hive, the
different types of bees within the hive, what their
roles and functions are, and how we interface with them. And we’ll start with
the three types of bees that you’ll find in
the honey bee colony. We have a worker, a
drone, and a queen bee. We like to start by talking
about the worker bee because she makes up
97% to 99% of a colony throughout the year, which is
referenced back to why Spencer said you probably
need to be a feminist to be a beekeeper because not
only is the future feminist, the future is female
in the bee world. It’s always been for these bees. The workers have
a range of tasks. They’re the smallest honey bee. Has anyone seen a
bee on a flower? That is a female
forager honey bee. So that’s a worker and
those are all ladies. SPENCER JONES: As
we’ll come to find, there’s a bunch of different
castes or qualifiers to the worker bee. The drone, in the middle there,
on the other hand, has one job. We’ll find out what that
one job is in the future, but to accomplish this job, he’s
got these really giant eyes. He’s a little bit
larger in size. These photographs
are not to scale. Don’t be afraid. There is not a giant drone
the size of Mariah’s hand flying through there. And they’ve got a
rounded fuzzy bum. MARIAH MCDONALD: And the last
of the three bees in our colony is the queen bee, Her Majesty. She is the only queen in the
colony at any given time, and she is responsible for the
birth of every single bee that comes from that colony. SPENCER JONES:
Here’s another image. This is more to scale. It’s a late 1800s scientific
illustration of the three bees. Again, you can see the
smallest, the worker bee, making up that 97% to
99% of the population. The queen, there’s only
one queen ever in the hive. She stays front
and center there. She’s got that longer
turnip-shaped body. And then the drone, mid-range
there, with his giant eyes and rounded round behind. MARIAH MCDONALD: And part of
why we make reference to this rounded behind, as you can
see in this image also, the worker bee has a
stinger, and her stinger is actually her modified
reproductive organ because the queen is the only
one who needs to reproduce. So only the female worker bees
and the queen have a stinger. That reproductive
modification still is linked to all
of her intestines. So if a honey bee stings,
she has a barbed stinger, and she perishes
after she stings. So they’re not
inherently aggressive. They don’t want to sting us
because if they sting us, they die. So we’re also trying to kind
of realign and associate, clearly we love honey bees. So you guys can too. They’re actually
really sweet and cute. Moving into the
honey bee lifecycle, this is an image we took in
our apiary the other day. If you look towards
the top center and kind of in
the middle center, you can see a tiny little– what looks like a grain of rice. And that is an egg, and
that is what we really want to see in our
colonies because that means that the colony is queen right. And queen right means that
we have a virile queen who is laying eggs, and that
means the colony will continue to go on. You can see from that egg that
it then turns into a larva. The larva will then
continue its gestation and Spence will talk about that. SPENCER JONES: So
the egg is lain. It stays an egg
about three days. The queen is
responsible for laying all of the eggs in the hive. After that three
days, the egg tips over inside of the cell
and hatches into a larva. The larva is immediately fed a
substance called royal jelly. You can see in the photograph
there a kind of larva bathing in this white substance– royal
jelly is kind of a health craze as well– filled with tons of
really vital proteins for the growth of the larva. That larva then grows
over the course of days, depending on what type of
bee it’s going to become. For a female worker bee, it’s
21 days, for a drone, 24, and for the queen,
only 16 days, even though she is the largest of
all of the bees in the hive. MARIAH MCDONALD: And she gets
a diet of pure royal jelly which is part of why
she gestates so quickly. And also, we like
to make an analogy– as each bee is an individual,
but without their colony they’re not complete. So we sometimes like to use
the analogy of a colony of bees being like the human
body and that queen bee being the beating heart. So she is indispensable for
that survival of the colony. SPENCER JONES: This is a
video and an image of a swarm. And a swarm is essentially a
birthing process of the hive. It’s a natural process
that we love to encourage. The swarm is essentially
a cell split. What happens is, the colony gets
really healthy in the spring and summer months. It starts to fill out
wherever they’re living, be that in a hive
like we have, manmade, or in the side of a house, or
a log, wherever they’re living. They will outgrow
their environment, create a new queen or
a series of new queens, and then she takes
half of the bees and flies into the air,
gathering on a local tree branch or somewhere nearby in
this cluster that you can see. This one was especially large. We named her Big
Beetha because she was one of the largest swarms
that we caught this season. We were pretty proud. MARIAH MCDONALD:
After we had gone– so when a swarm is
looking for a new home, they settle and they
send out forager bees to try to find a new home. And if we’re lucky enough
to get into that space, we can actually catch
that swarm into a box. So we were called. We had a cardboard box in
the back of the car, packed this swarm into
that cardboard box, and then I was able
to actually dump. And we got a great
slow-motion video of a huge mass of bees
dumping into this box, which they have colonized. They’re now five boxes tall, one
of our most productive, healthy happy girls. That moves us into speaking
about the lovely worker bee. And that’s the lady
that makes up 97% to 99% of the colony at any given time. And we’ve created two separate
images, compilations of images, to describe the life
cycle of this worker bee because she spends
the first half of her life inside the colony
completely as a nurse bee. And that nurse bee is
responsible for a huge number of things, including
making honey. She makes the wax. She makes that royal jelly
that we were discussing. They secrete royal jelly
from a gland in their neck, and that’s what the queen eats,
and every egg gets a little bit of that throughout their life. They’re responsible for
feeding and cleaning the queen. There’s a group of ladies that
are called the royal court, and they stay within antenna
distance of the queen to make sure that she
has all of her needs met. They’re also responsible for
feeding the eggs and larvae. They keep the inside of the
colony at a consistent 95 degrees. And every single thing
inside that honey bee colony is antiseptic, antimicrobial,
antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, because they’re
in such close quarters, that if any parasite came
in, it would knock them out, which is part of why honey
is such incredible medicine, and all the bee
products that we consume as humans are great
for us because they have all of these microbes
that are great for our systems. SPENCER JONES: And you
can see in this image, they’ve started burying
their faces in honeycomb. They’re either feeding by
regurgitating, feeding honey to some of the larvae,
or actually packing those cells full
of pollen, making that substance called bee bread
that Mariah was mentioning. That’s those colorful
cells that are all throughout the photograph. And it’s actually
a fermented pollen that they use as an nutritive
for both themselves, the queen, and the babies. MARIAH MCDONALD: It’s
their protein source. It’s their source
of fat and proteins. So the honey they
use as their source of carbohydrates and sugars. And the bee bread they
use for their proteins. Does anybody know how
honey bees make honey? SPENCER JONES: This
is my favorite part. MARIAH MCDONALD: It’s
very, very exciting to us. So as the bees fly out,
we’ll talk about how they collect that nectar. They make honey from
nectar, and what they do, once they have their honey
stomach full of nectar, as they fly back into
the colony and they find one of their
sisters willing and ready with their open mouth, and
they regurgitate that nectar into the mouth of their sister. And that sister then
regurgitates again into the mouth of another
sister, up to 30 times between one another, all
the while mixing that nectar with some of their
stomach enzymes, creating that antimicrobial
properties like we were discussing, as well
as creating these little air bubbles. And as those air bubbles
pop, that liquid– because the nectar is about
70% moisture and honey is about 17%, which is part
of why it lasts forever. So what they’re doing is
evaporating the moisture with their little
saliva bubbles, and once it’s gotten to that
perfect antimicrobial phase as well as the
perfect 17% moisture, they then regurgitate
it into a cell. Once that cell is
full, they cap it up, and it’s just like putting
a jar on your preserves to make it through the winter. It’s so delicious, huh? SPENCER JONES: It sometimes
changes people’s opinion. So we talked about
all of the jobs that these have inside the hive,
under the umbrella of the nurse bee. The very final job that
they have is a guard bee. The guard stays at
the front of the hive. They mostly are monitoring
all of their sisters coming and going, as
well as making sure that no intruders come in. If a wasp or a yellow jacket,
or even things as large as a mouse or a shrew tries
to come into the hive, they’ll attack as
a unit, as well as try to just kind of
shuffle people along. If there are bees that are
coming from another hive, maybe coming through
to rob, they’ll smell the wax glands that they
have on the side of their body and be able to ID
them, like a bouncer, and say, no, you’re
not part of our team. Move on. And that is the final
job they do before they begin to take flight. So all those bees that
we’ve seen out on flowers are known as forager bees. And the foragers are in the
last couple weeks of their life, typically in the spring
and summer months, and they’re working
24 hours a day, either out gathering nectar
and pollen from flowers or inside the hive, coming
back to transfer that nectar and pollen into
this inner space. MARIAH MCDONALD:
And there’s actually a really interesting
morphological shift that happens in the
body of the honey bee as they move from a nurse
bee into a forager bee. The nurse bees are
inside all the time, so they get really
developed crawling muscles. The forager bees are flying
outside of the colonies, so they actually have to learn
to grow their wing muscles. And so that’s actually a
genetic or a morphological shift that happens in these honey
bees during their life cycle. Once they’re making that
transition from nurse bee to forager bee, they’ll
actually learn their flight path and train those muscles
by flying a foot away from the hive, and then
three feet, and then 20 feet, and then eventually,
they can actually have a five-mile flight
radius in any direction. So honey bees that we
see on the trees out here could be living five
miles away, coming to get this luscious
Bayside nectar to make their beautiful
honey and bee bread. We see a couple images here. If you look at the picture
of the yellow flower, this is a honey bee doing
her job of pollination. And so honey bees have really
complex communication systems within their own colony. They communicate primarily
through frequency and pheromone, and they
also have that type of communication with flowers. So the color of a
flower is a frequency, and the flower also emits
a frequency whether or not it has been pollinated. So if a flower hasn’t
been pollinated, the honey bees will know because
they have these little sensors on their sweet little toes. When they land on a flower,
it’ll have a frequency, and if it’s been
pollinated, you’ll see them just immediately
move to the next. And if it hasn’t, they’ll
shove their sweet faces into the flower, like
we can see in this sage flower, that yellow flower. What she’s doing here is, she’s
extending her long tongue. That’s called a proboscis. And it’s like a straw, and
that straw reaches down into the base of this flower. The flower has made
nectar specifically for the purpose of giving
its pollinator a treat. It’s like an alluring
treat for the pollinator. That honey bee slurps
up that nectar, puts it into a stomach
that she has called her honey stomach,
which is separate from her eating stomach. And as she’s doing that,
the male part of the flower, called the stamen, puts
pollen all over the back of this honey bee. You can see, in
some of the images we’ve seen before and
here, that the honey bees are covered in hair. Even their eyeballs
have hair on them. So as that pollen, which looks
like tiny little microscopic Velcro balls, lands
on those honey bees, they’ll lick their arms and
put that back on– as you can see in the image with
the white background– that orange pollen sac that
we finally call saddlebags, they’ll collect that
pollen in their saddlebags. But they won’t
collect all of it. So as they’re flying,
each flight that a honey bee takes from her colony,
she will pollinate up to 500 flowers. And she’ll do that up
to three times a day. So if we have a colony of
bees that’s, let’s say, 100,000 bees, which is
an average-sized colony, 50% of which are forager
bees, each of those bees are pollinating
1,500 flowers a day. If you can imagine
that, these girls are extremely efficient
at what they do. They’re incredibly
efficient pollinators. One in three bites
of food we take– we can say thanks to the Google
team as well, the food team– has to do with these honey bees. So Google food team, honey
bees, great, great combination, great relationship there. SPENCER JONES: But
all of that wouldn’t be anything with just one
bee going to one flower source or one water source. They have to be
able to communicate. And even though they’re
communicating with the flowers and communicating through
vibration and pheromone, they need to create
very detailed maps to each other of how
to get to this forage, how to get to the nature. And so they come
back to the hive. They do something
called the waggle dance. A waggle dance is a very
intricate communication system. It’s kind of like bee twerking. They come back to the hive. They orient their shadow always
at 30 degrees to the sun, and they walk in a figure eight. And while they’re walking in
a figure eight, they shake– MARIAH MCDONALD: All the while. SPENCER JONES: –and they make
all these little vibrations from 10 Hertz to 1,000 Hertz. And those are intricate
communications of, just over there past
the tree, take a left, there’s a water source. If you go a mile over
this way, and then you turn around, around this U-turn,
you’ll find a field of flowers. And they were able to
study this with a bunch of German scientists who devoted
about 10 years of their life to studying bees at the hive,
what they were dancing about, and where they were going. It was pretty fascinating. MARIAH MCDONALD: So they’re
a pretty intricate system, and their communication is
kind of like the internet. Next step is our
sweet, sweet drone. As we discussed him before and
remember his big bulbous eyes– SPENCER JONES: –he uses those
eyes for one specific task. He lives about three months
or he could live one day. And if he lives one day,
it’s because he got lucky. He goes outside of
the hive every day around the hottest time. 1:00 to 3:00 is how
we’re seeing our hives actively have their
drones come out lately. He comes out and uses those big
eyes with all his drone buddies to look for the smell
of a virgin queen. And yes, I said
look for a smell, because they can
see vapor trails. They can see the particulate
that makes up scent. MARIAH MCDONALD:
So they see smell. SPENCER JONES: So they can see– MARIAH MCDONALD: To me, every
single time, it’s crazy. SPENCER JONES: –3D
smell in color. And they’re doing that
looking to get lucky, looking to the sky for a
virgin queen that’s flying up. And then 12 to 20 drones
will fly up, mount the queen, and then deposit their
genetic material. And then they lean back. Their reproductive
organ breaks off, and they fall to the ground
dead, saying, it was worth it. MARIAH MCDONALD: So
as Spencer was saying, the drones can live
up to three months. But if they get the opportunity
for their day in the sun, they can live a day. But honey bee, the worker bee,
lives an average of 52 days. And then moving into our next
lovely lady is the queen, and the queen can live
three to five years. So if you think about
that ratio, 52 days, maybe three months,
three to five years– SPENCER JONES: It’d be
like your mom living to be 40,000 years old. MARIAH MCDONALD: So this
40,000 year old mother is the only one in
the colony, and she is responsible for laying every
single egg that ever turns into a bee in that colony. And as I said, 100,000
is an average size. We can have a colony, a small
colony, that’s about 15,000, ranging up to a very large
colony that’s 250,000. And every single one of those
babies comes from one queen. She is the only
one in the colony. We have a couple
different images here because we have a fun
game, like Where’s Waldo, find the queen. We take pictures of
frames of honey bees with the queen on
it, and then there’s the task of trying
to figure out how to train your eye to identify. A couple of ways to
identify, as Spencer had mentioned before, she has
that longer turnip-shaped body. She also has kind
of a bald head. She looks a bit like a
friar from a monastery. And she has shorter wings
as well because she only flies that one time
for that maiden voyage, leaves as a virgin queen
or a virgin princess, comes back as a mated queen. She then has all of
that genetic material from the drones on one side of
her body, and all of the eggs that she’ll ever lay
in her life in a sac on the other side of her body. She then, when she goes
back into the colony, will start to lay eggs. And she will lay between
500 and 3,000 eggs every day for her entire life. So when ladies are like, I’m
the queen bee, I’m like, you go, girl. You got that job. I’ll be a forager. SPENCER JONES: I’ll be a drone. It’s all right with me. MARIAH MCDONALD: So that’s
the main task of the queen. She doesn’t feed herself. She doesn’t clean herself. She has that royal court
that takes care of her, keeps her within that
antenna distance. And what she’s doing is
finding a cleaned out cell, turning around,
depositing her abdomen, and putting one egg at
the bottom of each cell. Every time she lays
an egg, she decides if it’s going to be a fertilized
egg or an unfertilized egg. The fertilized egg becomes
the female worker bees. The unfertilized egg
become the drone. So they’re actually genetically
identical to their mother. Something fascinating about the
genetic flushes of honey bees is, because she has mated
with those 12 to 20 drones, we’ll actually see different
flushes of different genetics from each drone throughout the
life cycle of this queen bee. SPENCER JONES: These
are a couple images of frames and hives. We keep a Langstroth hive. There are many different
styles of hive bodies. But when they’re
human fabricated, the Langstroth hive is
one of the most common and has been around
for over 100 years. It’s like a glorified
filing cabinet. So it has the main base,
as you can see here. And then inside, there
are eight to 10 frames that can pull out vertically. Some of these images show– MARIAH MCDONALD: This
is an actual frame. SPENCER JONES: –this
exact thing right here. And so the bees are busy making
all of their honeycomb inside of these frames. It gives them a
representation of what they might do naturally. They always draw comb
from the top down. And they’ll draw it inside this
rectangle, given the space. MARIAH MCDONALD: And part of
why we’ve pulled up these images today is because we were talking
about the different individual bees. But truly, none of
those bees could survive without the synergistic
relationship of all of them together. And what’s kind of hot right now
in human community and culture, as well as the honey bees,
is this concept of hive mind, of everyone with this
intuitive communication, with this frequency, and
pheromone communication, we all, if we work together, can
accomplish so much more than us as individuals, including
helping to save the bees, and including what you
all are doing here. Each and every one
of you has such an incredible, unique bright
mind and these abilities and capacities to do all
of these different things. But if we’re an island,
we can’t accomplish as much as we can if we’re
all working together. So I think the honey bees are
a really graceful and really elegant example of how we all
need each other to survive. So we have a couple of images,
like Spencer was saying, of colonies. You can see what they do and
build the image of the bee. With her saddlebags
and her bum up is an example of one of
their communication tactics. What she’s doing is,
she’s just clearly found a new amazing food
source, as you can tell by that pollen
sac, and she’s landed on the front of her colony. She has her bum up in the air. And her stripes are
actually scales. They sit on top of
each other, and they have eight glands, four on
each side of their body, and they release a pheromone. And so she’s communicating
to everyone else where that food source is. So again, another
example of her going out and doing this reconnaissance
work, and then coming back, and them all working
together, providing a situation where everyone
can survive and thrive. SPENCER JONES: And
here’s some more images, drawing that corollary
between what the bees do, what the hive mind is, and where
its origins come from, but also what we can accomplish. We wouldn’t be
able to accomplish space travel on our own. We also wouldn’t become a
giant 40-foot tower of people. MARIAH MCDONALD: We can’t
do that with one human. We need to be all together. SPENCER JONES: Both
ends of the spectrum, but together, that’s how
we can accomplish it, when we’re working selflessly,
working together, and trying to find our way. MARIAH MCDONALD: And
the image of the frame there is beautiful fresh wax. And that is another example
of how bees and humans are really similar. They’re actually one of the
only species that plans ahead with their food source. They make all of the
food that they eat. and part of why they
make so much honey is because come wintertime,
there aren’t flowers to forage. So they make all
of the honey they need for throughout the winter. So it’s another example
of their intelligence and working together to be
able to survive as a whole. SPENCER JONES: This
is a video that is displaying even more of that
intelligence and more of that working together. They are in swarm cluster form. And they’re throwing their
bodies in this wave-like motion– MARIAH MCDONALD: Like
you’re at the World Cup. SPENCER JONES: –to look
like a much larger identity, much larger animal. It’s kind of like,
yeah, Mariah was saying, at the World
Cup when everybody gets up and does the wave. They’re doing it
as a defense tactic to make everything
look like they’re this one big, big object. Also it’s just kind of
fascinating to watch. MARIAH MCDONALD:
Yeah, we’ve wanted to use it as a reference,
and also it’s really cool. Moving into a little bit more
of how they’re in trouble, honey bees are
absolutely in trouble. That’s part of why we’re
here speaking to you today. That’s part of why we’ve
dedicated our passion and business to trying
to help the honey bees. In 2006, there was a term
coined called colony collapse disorder. National average last year
was a 70% loss in honey bees. We lost 70% of our
colonies over the winter. We’re getting back up
by catching swarms, but the issue is real. And again, as we had
mentioned before, one in three bites of our
food comes from the honey bee. So outside of them
being ecologically necessary to continue
this diversity, we need them as
humans to survive. So we have a couple
of images up here. There are a huge number
of theories about why the honey bees are dying. I don’t think one is right. We have a running
joke that if you ask two beekeepers one question,
you’ll get five answers. Everybody’s an expert
on these things. But the truth is, nobody
totally knows why, and I think it’s a combination
of all of the things. The image you see with
that vast beautiful orchard is an almond orchard. And this is an example
of monocropping. It’s beautiful, and
it’s an incredible food source for honey bees
for two weeks to a month. But they need
longer than a month to get enough nectar and
pollen to be able to last through the winter. So after this bloom is
done, it’s a food desert. There’s nothing for
them to eat, which is part of why so many people
are bringing in pollinators. And there’s a huge
issue with that because a lot of the
pollinators are dying. The image in the middle is
power plants, cell phones. We were just talking about how
Erykah Badu is helping people understand that cell phones,
power plants, the frequencies that are in the
air, are actually disrupting their flight
path because they’re frequency-based creatures. So they learn their geolocation
through a frequency, and then if a cell
phone call comes through or there’s a Wi-Fi frequency
that disrupts their frequency, they can’t find their way home. And this other image
is of urban sprawl, which is another issue that’s
happening for honey bees. We all need a place to live. We live in a city. We live in a home in a city. I’m really grateful for it. And there are little things we
can do like planting a planter box in our front yard. If you live in an
apartment, hang it over the balcony,
if you have one, or have it outside your window. It really makes a difference
because the honey bees, with this urban
sprawl, have to fly further and further distances
to try to receive enough forage to create the honey. And they get too tired when
they’re on their way home, and they just perish
on their way back. SPENCER JONES: These
are a few more images of things that are contributing
to colony collapse. And it really is
a perfect storm. Those three other images are
just three factors of many. But one of the
sources that is really a hot topic within beekeeping
are the Varroa mite. And the Varroa mite is this tiny
little bug that’s a parasite that comes in and actually
creates degenerative diseases, wing diseases on the
new bees that are born, so that way they cannot fly. They can’t leave for
forage and gather food. And it really quickly destroys
the colony from the inside out. One of the reasons why the
Varroa mite is coming into play so strongly now is
that we’ve gotten into so much genetic
manipulation within the bees. We want them kind and we want
them to make lots of honey for us. But when they’re really kind
and really good at making honey, their focuses
aren’t on guarding. Their focuses aren’t
on self-defense. Oftentimes, our hand, our
unseen hand, in beekeeping limits their ability to
develop these tactics, or our genetic manipulation
stifles their growth. MARIAH MCDONALD: As an
example to illustrate that, have you guys heard of
the Africanized honey bee? It’s kind of a scary
thing that’s happening. Africanized honey
bees don’t have mites. They don’t die of mites. They don’t die of the
small hive beetle. They also don’t
experience wax moths. They’re more aggressive. They’re more
dangerous for humans, but they also have an
ability to survive. So that’s one of the
things that we’re illustrating is that by
genetically breeding honey bees to be really gentle
and docile, we’re actually taking
away their ability to have an immunity against
these pests coming in. Another part of their immune
system is that, just the same with humans, if we
continuously take antibiotics, our immune system starts
to get weaker and weaker, and the pests and the
bacteria that’s coming into us is actually getting
stronger and stronger. So by treating bees and giving
antibiotics consistently, it just weakens the
immunity of the honey bees and it’s strengthening
those parasites, the mites, the small hive beetle,
and the wax moth. We don’t have a great
solution to this. I’m not trying to say that
treatment-free beekeeping is the way. I think everybody
is doing our best. We’re just kind of
trying to illustrate some of the things
that are happening. Another huge thing absolutely
has to do with pesticides. There’s not an
insecticide or a pesticide that won’t affect an
insect, like a bee. Whether or not it’s quote,
unquote, “bee safe,” they just really do
affect the neuropathy. What happens a lot
is, it actually rewires the bee’s
brain synapses, and when they get
back to the colony, they just can’t
perform their function. The image that we
have is dismal. It shows what happens when you
can actually see the dead bees. Another huge thing that’s
happening is called absconding. And a number of the hives
that we lost this last winter were just gone. They took the honey sometimes. They left the honey sometimes. But they were absolutely
gone, and this is one of those mind-bending
anomalies of what’s going on. We don’t really know, and
we can’t even study them if they’re not there. SPENCER JONES: It’s a huge
question mark in the industry currently. There’s so many factors
leading into it, but there’s no answer because
there’s nothing left to study. MARIAH MCDONALD: But
fear not, there is hope. We are here not just to talk
about how there’s trouble. We’re here because
we want to spread the fact that there
is hope, and there are things that you can do. Here are some images of
things that you can do. SPENCER JONES: We can
support each other and support
beekeeping as a whole. Purchasing raw and local
honey is a great way to support beekeepers. If you don’t have the time to
become a beekeeper– hopefully, everybody does. It would be great– but if you don’t, you can
support your local beekeeper. Buying and eating raw and
local honey is also great, so many health benefits
from the homeopathic quality of consuming the pollens
and other allergens that might be affecting
you seasonally by eating that raw, always
raw, and local is usually best. When we heat treat
or pasteurize honey, it takes away most of
the nutritive value. So raw is key. MARIAH MCDONALD: So when
we’re helping people to understand, hey, should I
buy local or should I buy raw, or how should I do this, should
I get it at Costco, number one, make sure it’s raw. If you can, make sure
it’s raw and local. If you can, even better,
go meet your beekeeper. Go check out what the
bees are foraging. It’s really, really incredible. And like we’ve said before,
the bees have no interest in us unless we’re a flower. I’ll get right next to
a bee that’s foraging, and just give her a
little pet on the back. She’s kind of
like, doing my job, leave me alone, which leads
us into our next image. Plant flowers. It’s such a beautiful,
luscious way to help, and it really does help. We brought some seed packets
today from one of our apiaries. I’m an herbalist also, so we
plant lots of medicinal flowers around our apiary. So the honey bees can go and
visit the medicinal flowers, actually receive
some of the benefits of that medicinal plant, make
medicinal honey through that, and then we can
harvest the plants, make medicine from them, and
we’ve harvested some seeds. So if you have a yard,
if you know people with a yard, if you’re
into seed bombing and just want to throw
it on a patch of dirt and see if it grows,
you’re more than welcome. They’re by the front
door when you come in. Please take a packet. SPENCER JONES: Also
another thing you can do is education, kind of
like what we’re doing. Even if you learn
just one fact today, telling that fact
to somebody else raises the awareness
of the necessity to care for this species. Just telling others and getting
that cipher going of excitement about the possibility that we
can do something, that we all can do something. MARIAH MCDONALD: And
regaining that sweetness, that connection. We wanted to start with
the ancient connection that humans have had with honey
bees, to help everyone realize and to re-illustrate that
they’re actually really sweet. They’re actually
our good friends. Another thing that’s helpful,
if you don’t enjoy honey or can’t plant flowers,
is you can donate. Funding the change
is making a change. If you can donate to
local pollinators, there’s some great organizations
around the Bay Area. We accept donations
with Swarm and Tender that help us to feed our
bees, to get all of our gear. We’re working towards
getting property so we can create a honey
bee and plant sanctuary. You can help donate
to schools and help the children have the
education, because that’s our future as well. So that’s a really,
really helpful tactic. SPENCER JONES: It’s
been really fun talking to kids because
they come forward with so much information. An eight-year-old, I’m like,
you know more than I do. This is great. Where did you learn this? They’re like, oh, it’s
a program in my school. I’m like, yeah! So those types of
things are things that I’m excited about finding
myself, as well as being a part of going and teaching
kids, teaching the future and creating a new world. MARIAH MCDONALD: Another
thing you can do is keep bees. If you have any interest in
keeping bees, let us know. We have tons of resources. We can help you get started. You don’t need a ton of space. You don’t need a
ton of know-how. The more bees there
are around, the better. SPENCER JONES: And
they’re wildly adaptable. This is an image of
our front of our house. We were lucky enough to be
sharing some time with family, and we thought, OK, we’ll
put work down for the day. We were wrong. The bees decided to
swarm and come right into our very own front yard. We couldn’t determine
whether they were even bees from our
colonies at our house. They came, and they clustered up
on this tree in the front yard, and Mariah’s family
was a little tentative. We’re standing in a cloud
of bees, like, come on guys. Come over here. This water’s fine. MARIAH MCDONALD: And my
three-year-old nephew was like, Auntie
Moonpie’s crazy. SPENCER JONES: So this
image illustrates, and we have a video as
well, that shows just how natural and docile they
are in that swarming quality. It’s a common misperception
that like, oh, no. There’s a bee swarm. It’s a cloud of bees. They’re actually just looking
for a new place to live. So we’ll go, no suits, just
grab any sort of vessel we can, and put them in a box
to give them a new home, provide that space and
provide that nurturing quality for them. MARIAH MCDONALD: We also,
with Swarm and Tender, do live removals, rescues, and
relocations of both honey bees and bumblebees. The California native
bumblebee has just been put on the
endangered species list. And so what we’re doing
is working closely with different
exterminating companies, and asking them to
funnel us their honey bee and bumblebee calls. And then we’ll go and
actually do live removals. The image on top is of us
doing a removal from a chimney. Honey bees have really been
enjoying colonizing chimneys this year. So we’re up on a lot of roofs. We have specialized equipment
where we can actually suck the bees out with a
vacuum without hurting them. There’s a padded cage inside. And we funnel the
bees in there, cut out all of their comb because
it takes six parts honey to make one
part wax, and we want them to keep that hard work. We then rubber band them into
frames, put them into boxes, and move them to
a place where they can live healthy and happy with
a big foraging field close by. SPENCER JONES: And then we
get to use them for education. In that final photograph,
Mariah has what’s called an observation hive. We like to carry that
around, show people. If anybody’s got
any fear, they don’t want to be around
bees out in nature, they can see them
through the glass and actually watch their
intricate systems working. Everybody inside, you can take
frames from a hive like this, put them in the
observation hive, and they just keep working. They just keep going
and doing it tirelessly, which is always fun to share. MARIAH MCDONALD: But it is
the video of the image of us right next to that swarm. It’s just us, without any
suits, dropping that swarm into a box to illustrate
that they’re really, really gentle, docile, and kind. The reason that honey bees
would ever be aggressive is because they’re
defending their territory. They’re trying to
protect their queen. They’re trying to protect
the larvae and the honey. When they’re swarming,
they don’t have a home. They don’t have larvae. They’re looking for
a new place to live. So we can put our bare hand
into the middle of a swarm, and they just crawl
over our hands like little fairy princesses. Here are some other images of
things that we’re doing, again, illustrating education. We love to teach
people about bees. If you can’t tell, we are
excited about honey bees. We like to actually
bring groups, bring groups of children,
bring groups like you. We’ve brought groups at
corporate resorts or big luxury resort scenarios into an
apiary so we can actually open up that box and
show the magic of what’s happening inside. In the bottom
picture, we actually were able to bring some
honeymooners into an apiary so they could harvest
fresh honey from a colony, and really make that
honeymoon full of honey. And again, these two
pictures are of some removals that we’ve done. What we do is go– the
one in the bottom corner is of an eave that
was about 35 feet up, and we’d go and remove the
bees, cut out that wax, and then relocate them. So the humans can feel
safe and comfortable and the honey bees have a safe,
comfortable place to live. SPENCER JONES: So what’s
next in our game plan is, we need space to
bring these removals. We want to have space
where we can just plant all of these flowers. There have been multiple
sanctuaries that have been created
in the United States as well already,
that are showing dramatic changes in the
loss of over-wintering bees. One in particular is boasting
a 5% over-wintering loss, which is unheard of. And the reason that they’re able
to say that this is happening is because they plant
all organic forage. They’re not near a
bunch of power lines. They have people
tending them that really care and are gentle,
and are letting the bees kind of re-wild their genetics,
mixing with each other, all in the same place, those
drones getting that job done, and making that genetics
stronger and more virile. MARIAH MCDONALD: Morgan
Freeman is another example. He’s an inspiration for
what we’re trying to do. He just donated,
I think, 115 acres of his property in Missouri
to be a honey bee sanctuary, and then started
to work with bees and is just
completely converted, and loves honey bees. Probably won’t ever act
again because he’s just got to be with the girls
all day, every day. So that’s what
we’re hoping to do. We’re looking to find a chunk
of land in northern California where we can bring the removals. At this point in time, we
have about five apiaries, all at different friends’
houses and in different friends’ farms, who are
kind enough to let us bring lots of honey bees and
bumblebees whenever we need to. But we’re hoping to
create a sanctuary where, like Spencer was saying, create
a situation where we can really bring down those losses over
winter, where we can also create a sanctuary that
people are welcome to come and we can offer more education. We can plant those
medicinal herbs and share this passion
and information. And so we have a little bit of
time for questions and answers. We wanted to leave a little
space in this hour long in case we didn’t cover
anything or if you guys have clarifying questions. And we’re also happy to stay
long after and chat you up about bees. Any questions? AUDIENCE: So I think it’s
the worker bees you said, they go on like– or forage bees, whatever,
they go on a flight to like 500 flowers at a time. Are they normally the
same type of flower or how do they pollinate
the right types of flowers with the pollen? MARIAH MCDONALD: That’s
a great question. Generally, if there are a
number of the same plants in the area– so if you imagine a
field of mustard– they’ll be flying to
whatever flowers are around. So often, yes, if they
fly from one flower to the next, and another
flower, and they, say, go to five different
species, that little pollen, it goes without saying that a
number of those pollen flecks will drop from that
bee into the pistil, which is the female
part of the flower. And so if there are
five droplets of pollen that go in, if one of them is
from the same type of flower, it will still
pollinate that flower. SPENCER JONES: But they’re
opportunists mostly. They’re just looking for
the closest best thing, the most tasty treat. Nondiscriminatory is
another way to put it. MARIAH MCDONALD:
Any other questions? Yeah? AUDIENCE: So honey is like
food storage for the bees, but I guess I’m wondering,
when we harvest honey, does that take away
from their food stores? And then how do they
have food stores left? And then, a follow-up question
is, if bees now just make more honey, like you said that
we genetically select for that, then like absent harvesting
honey, do they just make less? SPENCER JONES: That’s
a great question. MARIAH MCDONALD: Great question. SPENCER JONES: Yeah, so
we try to, as a kindness, only harvest about 20% of
the possible honey that we could harvest from bees. They’re making it
for themselves, but they’re also one
of the only creatures, aside from human beings,
that have more food than they could ever possibly need. That judgment is obviously
a human judgment. Sometimes, they’re
planning five years ahead. They’re knowing that
something called the dearth will be
coming through where there’s less flowers. Or like we were
experiencing in a drought, less water means
less nectar means less honey, less flowers,
less food for the bees. Some large big ag beekeeping
will take everything, and they’ll supplement
with sugar syrup. That sugar syrup’s kind of
like taking your organic meal and giving McDonald’s. It’s not the greatest. It is sustenance. They can live on it, but it
depends on the beekeeper, depends on the situation. The bees that are specifically
used just for honey harvest are often left with
nearly nothing, which is another problem. MARIAH MCDONALD: And the
second part of that question is, if we have genetically
chosen bees that are making more and more honey,
they’ll just continue to do it. As long as there’s forage
and nectar, they’ll continue, and people can put
boxes and boxes. I think the tallest
we’ve had is maybe six boxes on a very
productive hive. And we give what’s called
multiple brood chambers. And so people who
are harvesting honey put an excluder,
a queen excluder, because if the queen
can get somewhere, there will be eggs,
not just honey. So we put a grate on top, and
the workers can go through. And so we know, anything
above that queen excluder will just be honey. We often put two, sometimes
three, brood chambers to make sure there’s
a huge population so those bees can survive. And then after that, if
they are prolific enough to make extra, extra honey,
we’ll harvest a little bit. But we’re not in the
business of honey. We’re in the business of rescue
and relocation and education. We’re really trying to help
these girls have a comeback. Honey’s delicious. It’s a great talking point. We can bring it to
different markets. We can share it with
people, and then scoop them in so we can
teach them about honey bees. AUDIENCE: Hey. How long might a single
colony stay in the same hive? SPENCER JONES: That’s
a good question. MARIAH MCDONALD: Indefinitely,
if the conditions are great. As we said, a queen lives
three to five years. If that queen dies,
they’ll make a new queen. And so any fertilized
egg can become a queen if fed royal jelly
throughout the duration. So an egg is an
egg for three days and, as Spencer has mentioned,
if they, in those first three days, understand
that their queenless, they’ll feed that egg, between
two and a dozen generally, to make sure that they
have a viable queen. And then they can just
continue to live in a place. So there’s a building
that’s had the same colony with multiple queens for
more than 25 years, close to where we live. And the people just understand
that they’re doing good work. And that’s in the
back of the shop so it doesn’t really matter. So they let them stay. AUDIENCE: Do they start
producing new queens while the existing queen
is still alive sometimes or just when she’s like
getting older, or is it not until after she’s died? SPENCER JONES: That’s
a great question. They do produce queens while
the queen is still alive. In the case of an
aging queen, they’ll notice that her laying pattern
of eggs starts to get spotty. We call it spotty brood. A healthy virile
queen will be laying this perfect disk
of brood, or eggs, and then as she gets
older, she starts to miss, kind of misfire. Sometimes, the bees will see
that as a opportunity to make a newer, healthier queen. They’ll make between 12, 12-ish
queens, and those will hatch. They’ll actually battle royale
sometimes inside the hive because they don’t
have a barbed stinger. So they’ll sting
each other or go and sting through the cells, one
queen wanting to reign supreme. Or sometimes,
multiple swarms will happen from that single
hive, but always, there will be one queen inside. MARIAH MCDONALD: And that is
where the gentle communication gets a little bit more Game
of Thrones, if you will. A queen will hatch,
and they will battle. The first queen
to hatch, if she’s replacing a sick or dying queen,
she will actually go and kill the other queen. And then she’ll go around and
sting all of the other queen cells that aren’t yet
hatched so she doesn’t have any competition for the throne. SPENCER JONES: But there’s at
least always one queen, right? MARIAH MCDONALD: Yes. AUDIENCE: So in
addition to wanting to reboost the bee population
and to help out and whatnot, we’ve noticed a spike
here at Google, and also in the Bay Area, a spike
in urban beekeeping. What do you find is the major
difference between the two, as opposed to having it
on land and/or rooftop? MARIAH MCDONALD: I
love urban beekeeping. I think it’s amazing. Spencer lived in
New York and worked with people who were keeping
bees on rooftops there. Urban beekeeping often
works really well because we’re not worried
about a dearth in flowers because people keep their yards
with flowers all the time. Because we landscape and
have lovely, beautiful pollen-producing
flowers, urban beekeeping ends up working really well. And it’s also a great
education talking point. SPENCER JONES: And it’s
going in parallel with people doing rooftop gardening,
like here, or just having planter boxes out of their
sky rise, just something that is available. And bees are not
afraid of going up, and they’re not afraid
of going far distances. So it’s great. It’s kind of creating
the ecosystem that was once here that
was paved over, and then, now that it’s
evolved into a city, we can re-illustrate the value
of having bees and plants side by side with a style of
living that we have chosen. MARIAH MCDONALD:
We’re pro-bees pretty much anywhere they can be. SPEAKER: Well, we want
to thank you guys so much again for being here and
really appreciate your time. SPENCER JONES:
Thank you very much. MARIAH MCDONALD: Thank you all. [APPLAUSE]

12 thoughts on “Mariah McDonald & Spencer Jones: “Exploring the Magical World of Honey Bees” | Talks at Google

  • Show us the photos about which you speak so we can have a visual image as well. You appear to be looking at pictures as you speak but you do not show us.

  • BS feminism krap injected into wherever google gastapo can. I was wondering why such a an important (non identity politics) topic would be a "google talk", but now i see why. Honey bee's are majority female to produce and care for offspring. Does not exactly fit the definition of modern day "feminists" (aka anti male).

  • really interesting, and so important .. I understand though, that they don't fly, but levitate .. their wings are not propelling them – Spencer mentioned the body to wing ratio not making sense .. that's why .. not used for flight. so great to see people passionate about the things that matter 👍🏻💕 .. at the end, when they advocated urban bee keeping, I wondered about the lack of mention of more concentrated EMF, dirty electricity .. 5G .. bees can't deal with that .. neither can we, nor can any other biological life

  • Thanks . A very through and comprehensive explanation! I'm still confused on the transition from one queen to another and fertilization of the new queen. No eggs are being laid. No new bees. A dangerous time for hive ! And then there's swarming. Which queen stays new or old and how do the bees decide to split up? Is swarming a result of old queen doing poorly or just a split of the hive. They are amazing!

  • African bee are not dangerous for human. Just to put that out there.
    This is an educational platforms, there's no need for stereotypes

  • 😉Like, if you are under 18!

    🍕sorry, that PR in the comments! 5,000 subscribers) I know you are the best, help realize my dream!


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