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UCR Bees and Beekeeping - Part 2

Around 30 honey bees on a beehive frame. The queen is visible, marked with a red dot.

Intern reporter Allison Wang interviews Professor Boris Baer and PhD student Genesis Chong about CIBER, the Center of Integrative Bee Research based out of UCR's Department of Entomology

Allison Wang: With 91.9 KVCR News, I'm Allison Wang. Professor Boris Baer and Genesis Chong are both members of CIBER, the Center of Integrative Bee Research based out of UCR's Department of Entomology. But what does CIBER do exactly?

Boris Baer: So CIBER is a platform, where researchers at UCR, where they put their heads together, and they interact with beekeepers. And what the aim is, we develop new tools, how we can keep bees healthier, and how we can avoid in the future that we lose all these bees. So we safeguard the bee, that means we also safeguard the production of human food. So what we do is like these tool development, one, for example, is to have like a breeding program for resilient, naturally resilient bees. We realized if you look at any domesticated animal, a dog, a cat, a cow, we look after them really well, right, and you bring them to the vet. And if the animal is sick, we have like a huge variety of different medications that you can use to treat them. We don't have that for bees, for bees, we have about three or four medications at the end of it. And the veterinarians never really took up bees, you can bring your beehive to a vet. So what we did is basically develop an electronic veterinarian. So we develop little sensors that we put inside beehives, and the sensors pick up what the hive is doing. This could be temperature, humidity... and machine learning algorithms can actually learn of okay, this, this hive is healthy or ooo, there's something coming. So that's kind of the type of things we work with. I think at the same time, we really try hard to stay in contact with the local beekeepers and we engage them into the research.

Genesis Chong: Yeah, because at the end of the day, all the investment and all our investigation they work what we are doing is not only for the bees. It's just to give the beekeepers tools for them to make easier their job.

Boris Baer: I normally rather kind of say if you want to support the bees, buy your honey from the beekeepers, because you directly support the beekeepers and they have businesses that are really at risk, like supporting them also help to support the bees and pollination.

Allison Wang: Right. Yeah. Well, this is all just like really amazing research that you guys are doing. CIBER recently moved to UCR in 2017. What was the reasoning for that move and why was Riverside chosen?

Boris Baer: So first of all, UCR has a very long history in entomological research, when we got the phone call, and they asked me to move here, really a no brainer. Because in Riverside, you have this, you have to close connection to the growers in the Central Valley, California is the largest producer of agricultural goods within the US. But I think one of the key reasons to move here were the survival bees. This is absolutely unique. I always say like California was lucky four times in row, right? First California gold, then he had oil, then it had silicone, and now it's bees, we have these survival bees. They are hybrid between bees that escaped from a lab in Brazil. They're very defensive, but they are very tolerant against heat and parasites and pretty much everything right. But they're defensive. So people don't like them very much. But here they hybridize with the bees that we bring in for pollination purposes. And that creates a melee of different genotypes, we have probably the most genetic, the genetically most diverse species in the world here. So we just climb into the trees, we get them down, and we make a new deal. Right? We say like, "okay, we are nice to you if you're nice to us; tell us how you do it. And you could kind of provide us with the pollination services." You have people that are very well aware of the problems. But there's this solution to the problem is already hanging in the trees. We just have to climb up. But that's what people did. 40,000 years ago, right? We just do the same again.

Genesis Chong: May I ask you a question?

Allison Wang: Yeah.

Genesis Chong: Why are you taking beekeeping course?

Allison Wang: I really wanted to take this class ever since I heard about it. And it just seems so fun to be able to go out and actually interact with bees. And it's just so awesome that it's available to all UCR undergrads. So as a political science student, I could still take it.

Boris Baer: As you might have realized, bees is it's own universe, we don't only need scientists, we need political scientists. We need engineers, we need economics people. So bees bring together people from different fields. That's why it's so cool that the class can go beyond STEM.

Genesis Chong: Yeah. And also I feel that that pushes you to collaborate with other fields and learn like beyond your expertise. And it's kind of like the bees, it's teaching us to collaborate and to be like a super organism as well with all these expertise. It's just something really valuable and amazing to have.

Allison Wang: So we're like our own beehive.

Genesis Chong: Yeah!

Allison Wang: Yeah!

Boris Baer: I think I say at some point, it's like, it's a bit of a mirror. Just they are successful, right, because they are here for a 120 million years. I don't know whether our species makes it 120 million years, but surprise me.

Allison Wang: We're gonna try our best. That concludes our interview. Thank you so much for both being here with me. For KVCR news. I'm Allison Wang.

This is the second part of a two-part story. For part 1 or the full length interview, see "Related Content" below.

Allison Wang is an honors student at UC Riverside, double majoring in political science and public policy. She began working at KVCR during the Spring 2023 quarter through the UCR political science internship course, POSC198G - Field Work.
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