Beekeeping alumna has beekeeping dogs; Dogs sniff out disease in beehives

KENDALL SCHUBERT, Business Manager

      North Harford Alumna Cybil Preston is the state apiarist and head apiary inspector for Maryland. Preston oversees the inspection of honeybees and inspections of all identification of bees. She also regulates laws that pertain to honeybees. 

     The alumna has four dogs, two of which are state employees right alongside her. Mack, a yellow lab, and Tukka, her springer spaniel are bee inspectors. Preston trained her dogs to be able to sniff out diseases in beehives. 

     To train Mack and Tukka, Preston worked with the Maryland Department of Corrections in their K9 unit. They let her into the Bootcamp to train the dogs by scent. The police dogs would train with drug smells while Tukka and Mack trained with the smell of the beehive disease. It took about eight months for her to train Mack and about five months for Tukka. 

     The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s website states how a trained inspector dog can sniff out diseases in 100 hives in just 45 minutes compared to a person who inspects diseases in 45 hives in one day. Their site also says how Mack and Tukka can only inspect the hives from November to March when the bees are dormant, so they don’t get stung. 

     Their family was contacted by Disney and got featured on the Disney+ show It’s a Dog’s Life. The producer Bill Farmer, who voiced Goofy and Pluto, loves dogs according to Preston and decided to make a show that features dogs with a purpose, working, and out of the ordinary pups.  

     The tv crew came to their house and took videos and interviews of Preston’s pups. The show has two fifteen-minute segments, the dog that was featured on the same episode as Mack and Tukka, was a surfing dog.  

      Preston didn’t grow up knowing she wanted to work in the bee side of business. She graduated high school and believed she wanted to pursue a career in nursing but during her schooling, she realized that wasn’t what she wanted, she wanted to work outdoors with nature. 

      The alumna said she took a short course in beekeeping and fell in love with it. She “started with just a few beehives and now own[s] 40 colonies.” Preston even has her own business called Cybbee’s where she grows produce and sells honey and other bee products. She says, “it’s just a way of life.” 

      Preston suggests that “people need to be good stewards of their environment.” To be more aware of what they are doing and how it impacts everything. She says, “try to not go to the easier option and use chemicals, there are other ways to get things fixed.”