Virginia Tech™home

Bees as Bioindicator for a Sustainable Future

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

2:30pm – 3:45pm

Virtual via zoom (register by clicking here), Virginia Tech Campus

Margaret Couvillon

Department of Entomology

Virginia Tech 


Lack of adequate, nutritious food is considered a factor contributing to bee declines. This stressor can act directly, where hungry bees are unable to meet their nutritional needs, or indirectly, where the resulting nutritional stress reduces the bees' ability to cope with other stressors, such as diseases and pesticides. But how do we know when and where to provide supplemental forage to hungry bees? Our laboratory uses the honey bee waggle dances, where successfully returning foragers communicate to nesmates the vector (distance + direction) from the hive to the resource, usually nectar or pollen. These dances are visible and can be decoded, analyzed, and mapped to determine where bees are and are not foraging. Only with such data may we implement a best management strategy for improving food availability to benefit overall pollinator health in a meaningful, targeted way.


Margaret Couvillon is a broadly trained bee researcher with a particular interest in the foraging and recruitment behaviors of the honey bee. Couvillon earned her undergraduate degree from Loyola University in New Orleans, her M.S. in neurobiology at Duke University, and her Ph.D. at the University of Sheffield in England. After working as a postdoctoral research fellow and then as a scientific advisor for the European Food Safety Authority, Couvillon began as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech. Her lab is developing bees as indicators for a landscape's ability to feed pollinators.