To bee or not to bee

Wow, have I been busy! Classes are in full swing around here. In fact, I’ve already reached the midpoint of the semester. Every day has been nonstop!

Even my weekends are packed. Though, this usually is my fault. I want to enjoy Australia while I can, you know? So I’ve been trying to visit wherever I can: Canberra, the Blue Mountains, Bondi Beach…

Last weekend, however, was taken by something entirely out of my control: a mandatory, overnight excursion for one of my classes.

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I’ve never heard of a field trip being mandatory before, especially for a university-level biology course.

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My professor for this particular course is a bit of an unusual one. For one, he’s traveled all over the world for his research. Secondly, he is one of those rare professors who can actually give interesting lectures. Thirdly, he actually cares for his students. And finally, he is deeply, passionately in love with bees.

Yes.

Bees.

On this trip, we would be going two hours out of Sydney to a little university-owned research station. The area is quite mountainous, with lots of hiking trails and forests. And we’d be going there– of course– to catch bees. Wild bees and domesticated bees, to be exact– after the trip, we’re supposed to analyze the DNA of the bees and compare the two populations.

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We were also scheduled to give presentations on controversial biology topics that weekend. The presentations that would be worth 10% of our grade.

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So I hopped on the train from Central out to Woy Woy, a coastal town north of Sydney. The ride took around two hours, and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful train rides you can get from the city.

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It’s probably a good thing I took a nap, though. My class set off as soon as we arrived.

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The bee colony lived higher up on the mountain, so we had to walk for quite a while…

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…but the view made it worthwhile.

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And off we went to catch bees!

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Well, now you have to poot the bee!

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I admit, I didn’t think I would be able to catch a bee. But my lab partner and I caught three!

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Because the research station lacked a proper lab, we had to get the bees back to Sydney for analysis. Thus, we dipped them in liquid nitrogen to freeze them and preserve their DNA.

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That was all only for the wild bees, of course. The lab station had its own colonies of domestic bees. My professor took care of the bee collection from those– the chances of getting stung from them was very high.

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Except my prof is so used to bee stings that he can’t be bothered with protective gear! Like a badass.

He brought over some of the honeycombs for us to observe.

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Though the risk is worth it for the honey alone.

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And we returned to the house for dinner, where we were stalked by hungry Australian magpies and brush turkeys.

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When I held an apple in front of this turkey, it literally jumped to peck the food out of my hand. Like a dog!

It was a pretty cool day! My class enjoyed dinner, bonded with each other, and sat around the campfire that night. Our professor even broke out a few beers with some of the students, since 18 is the legal age in Australia and Aussies are chill like that. Everyone chatted and had a good time.

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Well. It was a nice trip nonetheless.

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And I didn’t even get stung.

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