A 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, named Mack, has become an apiary inspector at the Maryland Department of Agriculture. He was a natural candidate for the job because his human mom, Cybil Preston, is the chief apiary inspector.
Mack’s job is to check beehives for AFB (American Foulbrood) which is a highly contagious disease that can kill an entire colony of honeybees.
Most of the beekeepers in Maryland have thousands of hives. These hives will travel from state to state for pollination. Ensuring that infected hives don’t cross state lines is Preston’s and Mack’s responsibility.
There has been a “bee dog” on staff in Maryland since 1982. Maryland may be the only state in the nation to use a dog to detect AFB.
A black Lab, named Bazz, performs the same duties of apiary inspector in Australia. To protect him from bee stings, Bazz has been provided with a custom bee suit to carry out his work.
Mack became the fifth dog to act as an apiary inspector in Maryland. When his predeceaser named Klinker, retired, a new dog was needed because the program has been so successful.
So, Preston began to look for a new dog for the job. She was told about Mack by a member of her local beekeeping group. Mack needed a new home. He was living in a garage. Although he hadn’t been taught any manners, he proved himself to learn quickly. Preston began teaching Mack basic commands before putting him into a 14-week training program before certification as a detection dog.
Bees are less active in cooler temperatures, so Mack works from November to April when he isn’t as likely to be stung. He moves from one hive to another sniffing for the odor he has been trained to detect. He sits to alert if he smells AFB in a hive to alert Preston that she needs to do a manual inspection. It only takes Mack about forty-five minutes to inspect 100 hives. In the same amount of time, Preston can only accomplish opening and inspecting ten hives. Dogs are 100% successful in sniffing out AFB. The use of a dog apiary inspector has proven to be an economical option in terms of improving detection and the ability to perform a greater number of inspections.