Sniffing Dogs Trained to Help Protect Honeybees in Maryland

PetMD Editorial
Published: July 05, 2018
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Honeybees are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. They work tirelessly to pollinate crops and plants all over the country.

In Maryland, Cybil Preston is in charge of monitoring the health of all the registered bee colonies within the state. She works for the Maryland Department of Agriculture as the chief apiary inspector.

Preston leads a team of apiary inspectors that monitor the well-being of the honeybees and their colonies to ensure they are all in good health. As The New York Times explains, “She pays close attention to Maryland’s commercial colonies, which beekeepers lease out to work blooms across the country—almonds in California, blueberries in Maine and New Jersey, citrus in Florida.”

She and her team check and certify that each honeybee hive that crosses state lines is healthy and free of American foulbrood, which is harmful bacteria that can decimate bee populations. The New York Times reports, “‘Everything else that can go wrong with the hives is fixable,’ she said, ‘but not that.’”

That is why she began training one of her dogs four years ago to sniff out foulbrood within the honeybee hives. She found that through the use of sniffing dogs, she can double the amount of honeybee hives that she can check in an apiary because she does not have to open the hive boxes to check for foulbrood. The dogs can be trained to sniff out the bacteria and tell if it has killed off any larvae.

The sniffing dogs have proven to be super valuable because not only are they more efficient and less invasive, but they can also be used in warm and cold climates. The New York Time reports, “Her Labrador retriever, Mack, inspected about 1,700 honeybee colonies last fall and winter. In the cold, when the bees were clustered and the comb was hard to inspect visually, Mack used his nose. This allowed Ms. Preston to continue certifying hives for shipment to warmer climates.”

The efficiency and effectiveness of Preston’s sniffing dogs has led to her receiving a federal farm grant bill to expand her canine detection program, so that she can train more dogs.

Image via Photografiero/

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