Did you know that dogs can be trained to sniff out just about anything? They are used to find drugs, lost people, bombs, termites, bed bugs, deceased bodies, cancer, low blood sugar, citrus and other plant diseases and a whole host of other things. It is said that a canine’s nose is 600 times more sensitive than a humans and trainers can teach a dog to pick out even the smallest traces of a target odor. What may take teams of searchers hours or days to uncover, a dog can find in minutes.
That was the idea behind Omaf, a beautiful Australian Sheppard who was trained to sniff out American Foul Brood which is a deadly disease affecting honey bees. This disease has no known remedy and each year many hives have to be burned in order to try and stop the spread of the spores to other hives.
Omaf’s owner Rob Campbell of Campbell’s Honey in Ontario Canada got the idea when employed as a bee inspector. He knew dogs were used in police work and figured he could use one to help him in his job. The disease in which he was searching for can easily be smelled by humans but narrowing it down to the specific bee box is perhaps where the dog could come in.
The training must have worked well and soon Rob and Omaf were off to work ready to rid the world of American Foul Brood. The bees however had another idea. When Omaf approached his first hive the bees inside did not take to kindly to his job description and quickly let him know. The dog had to high tail it out of the area and hid under a truck refusing to come out.
This was a problem, for which I hadn’t planned Rob explained , and I began to think about making a bee suit for the dog. His thick coat was already a good protection. It was his nose that needed to be shielded, but his nose had to be out so he could smell.
Omaf’s career came to an end when no solution could be found and although short lived his contribution to the bee world will never be forgotten. Rob has an excellent blog about his daily work and the many different aspects to bee keeping that we may never think of. Still going strong at age 75 and handling more than 100 hives a day I hope you take a minute to visit his site as he has years of knowledge and wisdom to impart.
Omaf? Rumor is he retired to the front porch which is close to the driveway. Occasionally stretches and yawns and then sniffs the air for any bees that may wander to close. If that happens he makes bee line straight for the truck and that’s where he spends the rest of his day.