This Dog's Nose Is Saving Maryland's Honeybees

Posted by TF Oren

Mack is a two-year-old yellow Lab with a nose for the record books.

Last fall, Mack was hired by Maryland's Department of Agriculture to be Maryland's Canine Apiary Inspector. In other words, Mack is helping keep Maryland's honeybees safe by sniffing out diseases that can destroy bee colonies.

Ever since 1982, the state of Maryland has had a bee-sniffing dog on the payroll. Mack is the fifth dog to become a part of the program. He works side by side with his human, Cybil Preston, examining beehives for a devastating bacterial disease called American foulbrood (AFB). AFB is fatal and can wipe out an entire honeybee colony.

Mack has been hired to replace his predecessor Klinker, who retired last year. Klinker also worked alongside Preston, and when the pooch retired, Preston was at a loss when it came to finding a replacement. Then, some distant acquaintances told her about a neglected Lab puppy who was living in a garage at the time.

"He needed to get out of that garage and I needed a trainable dog...It was fate," said Preston, in a department press release.

Once free from the garage, Mack went straight into bootcamp. He began his training with Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services K-9 trainers. Instead of learning how to sniff out contraband, though, he learned how to sniff out AFB.

Now the state's official Canine Apiary Inspector, Mack works from November to April (bees are less active during this time, so stings are less likely). He and Preston go from hive to hive, and when Mack sniffs out something suspicious, he sits down. This lets Preston know that she needs to perform an inspection on the hive. These life-saving inspections allow Preston to remove infected colonies before the disease spreads.

Mack works efficiently; he can examine about 100 hives in 45 minutes. Preston, who inspects the hives manually, can only check out about 10 hives in the same time period. Preston explained:

"If we want to be efficient, we need a dog."

Mack's predecessor had a 100% rate of success in sniffing out AFB. Hopefully Mack will be just as successful. Maryland's vulnerable bee population depends on it.

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This Dog's Nose Is Saving Maryland's Honeybees