In recent years, honey bees have been disappearing rapidly and no one is quite sure why. The phenomenon, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, is a big problem. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating crops like blueberries, avocados, and almonds. Without the insects, these foods would not exist at the quantities that we have them now.   

“Basically what happens is that an apparently healthy hive one week will be essentially decimated the next week,” says Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Jonathan Snow. He believes that part of the endangerment may have to do with the way bees are responding to stresses in the environment, such as loss of appropriate food due to human interference with their habitats, exposure to chemicals like pesticides, or attack by microbial organisms that might cause infectious disease.

Barnard biology majors Mia McKinstry '15 and Maryam Masood '15 have been helping Professor Snow investigate this by conducting experiments on the honey bee digestive tract. Having worked with him during the school year, the students received funding to work full time as part of the Summer Research Institute at Barnard. Check out the above video to see the student scientists at work.