Dr. Kaira Waggoner: A New Pheromone-Based Tool for Beekeeping

Dr. Kaira Waggoner

November 14, 2022
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Farm Bureau downstairs meeting room
112 White Street, Dobson, NC 27017 [ map ]

The Surry County Beekeepers Association will be holding their monthly meeting Monday, November 14th at 7:00 pm at the Farm Bureau office in Dobson (Note: this is a change of location). Our speaker this evening will be Dr. Kaira Waggoner from UNCG. Kaira started a PhD at UNCG in honey bee health in 2011, and has been working with pollinators ever since. She graduated in 2015, completed 5 years as a post-doc at UNCG, and now works as a Research Scientist in UNCG’s Biology Department.  During her doctoral studies at UNCG, Kaira became curious about how bees communicate to perform hygienic behavior. She discovered that elevated levels of certain compounds on sick baby bees serve as a signal to adults. 

Kaira recently co-founded a University spin-out company called Optera. Optera is a young start-up, currently developing a really exciting new pheromone-based tool to measure honey bee colony Varroa and disease resistance. The tool is based on findings from her PhD work at UNC Greensboro, and uses natural honey bee pheromones associated with unhealthy brood to measure honey bee colony hygienic performance. Optera calls the tool the UBO (Unhealthy Brood Odor) Assay, and they are really excited about the benefits that this tool will bring beekeepers interested in breeding or testing for Varroa-resistant bees.

The interest in the project has been overwhelming, with collaborations and trials currently running in several different countries and with queen breeders across the US. If you want to learn more, the work has recently been highlighted in the UNCG Research Magazine here: https://researchmagazine.uncg.edu/spring-2023/part-of-the-hive/bee-business/, on a brief video made by Inside the Hive TV here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYalOJRa7Aw&t=2s and in a longer Inside the Hive live presentation and interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9SeQYL0cAQ&t=233s.

SCBA has had a great year of fundraising based on sales of bees, queens, and honey from the bee yard. Optera is one organization that SCBA is considering donating to help support.