Bee pollen project wins fair awards

With a dad as a beekeeper it was only fitting Alexia Laybourn's last two science fair projects were bee-related.

This year's project Pollen Pursuit, which also focuses on bees, has won several awards at this year's Central Northland Science and Technology Fair including Best Overall Investigation and Best Overall Exhibit.

"My dad has been a beekeeper for 10 or 11 years now and I've kind of picked up most of his traits over the years. I've got a suit of my own and go out and help him with the bees and I find it quite fascinating," she said.

Ms Laybourn's investigation focused on developing a way in which beekeepers can classify pollen sources to gain a better understanding of the bees' movements.

Ms Laybourn said to find out this information beekeepers usually spend about $200, if not more, to send honey samples to the lab for testing.

"There are lots of different benefits like for commercial beekeeping to know what's in the honey. So if you're looking for one certain type of flower, like manuka, you can see there's a huge downfall of nutritious food for bees and it's really important that bees get the right food source.

One pollen we found was pine pollen and it's very bad for the bees and I think if we can prevent them from eating that somehow that would be really beneficial," she said.

To carry out the project Ms Laybourn collected flowers, used a pollen trap to collect the pollen in the hive and asked her dad to collect some honey - all three went under the microscope.

Ms Laybourn said the discovery of pine pollen in the honey surprised her as she was not aware there were any pine trees nearby. She said she had learnt there needed to be more nutrient-rich plants in the area.

When the Northern Advocate spoke to Ms Laybourn yesterday, she knew she had won some awards but did not know what for. She said she felt "excited" and "nervous".

The Central Northland Science and Technology Fair runs until tomorrow from 10am at Forum North.

- Northern Advocate