For a place that takes pictures with what amounts to controlled bursts of lightning, the lab is quiet, almost hushed. Standing in the entrance to Oregon State University’s (EMF), you might hear researchers’ soft voices as they discuss the best way to see pollen on a bee’s tongue or to look at a layer of molecules on a silicon wafer. You might be struck by the images on the walls and display screens — disc-shaped blood cells, elegant ocean plankton, flower-shaped nanocrystals.
As honeybees pick up pollen and nectar, they pollinate about one-third of the plants in the human diet. “Growers rent honeybees to pollinate their crops, and we are taking a close look to see what kinds of pollen the bees are actually collecting,” says Sujaya Rao, entomologist in Crop and Soil Science.
Strapped into a small holding device, the honeybee amiably wiggles its antennae. Like a toddler in a highchair, it seems to reach greedily for the dropper with sugar water that appears over its head. As its mouth opens, its tongue darts out for a taste of the sweet liquid.