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Berkley Normal Middle School - Greta Dromgool

2015 | Lessons from the hive

SchoolBerkley Normal Middle School

HostThe New Zealand Institute of Plant and Food Research – Hamilton

Region: Waikato

Greta is a science specialist teacher at Berkley Normal Middle School with a background in Ecology and Conservation. As a participant teacher in the Science Teaching Leadership Programme, she was hosted by Dr. David Pattemore and the Pollination team at the New Zealand Institute of Plant and Food Research in Ruakura, Hamilton.

Greta spent much of her placement in the field with an early trip taking her to Marlborough to prepare bumblebee nest boxes. During the trip, scientist Brian Cutting helped her to understand the different projects the team was undertaking and gave her a lesson in insect classification. Back at Ruakura, Heather McBrydie helped her learn about working in a lab. She then wore a bee suit and learnt beekeeping skills and about the fascinating biology of bees with Sarah Cross.

Greta also worked with Dr Mark Goodwin who was conducting a variety of trials. These included training bees with scented syrups and observing and recording orientation dances of bees to establish the impact of netting orchards.

Another trial investigated the hive die-off in the Coromandel, so Greta got to become familiar with the Coromandel, visiting to collect data and getting to work with local beekeeper, Dr Oksana Borowik. For this trial, Greta also worked in the lab, painting thousands of baby bees with nail polish so they could be tracked and and got to see James Sainsbury’s work on extracting gut parasite DNA. This trial gained a lot of publicity and Greta got to help with television recordings and to see the importance of communicating science.

At the same time, trials were also being started on Integrated Pest Management of the Varroa mite. Greta got to see the trial design and implementation and to help apply some of the treatments. Greta learnt about the impact of Varroa mite on New Zealand bee populations and the importance of monitoring to ensure healthy hives.

With summer on the way, Kiwifruit had begun flowering and it was out to the orchards again to test the pollination characteristics of a new Kiwifruit variety. Timing bee visits, artificial pollination and stigma sampling was all in a days (or weekends) work for the Pollination team. The warmer weather also meant the Manuka was flowering, so a 20m x 30m net was erected over a stand of Manuka to collect pure honey samples. Other members of the Pollination team were busy testing motorised pollen dispensers, tracking Bumblebees using a giant radio tower, a drone and a friendly canine called Ollie, as well as testing the impact of trackers on the Bumblebees using a highspeed camera and a flight chamber.

Greta has had the most amazing time and has learnt so much about how scientists work, the importance of teams and of asking the right questions. She is incredibly thankful for the huge amount of time, energy and knowledge that the Pollination team has shared with her and can’t wait to share all the learning with staff and students at Berkley Normal Middle School.