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109Do ionizing hair dryers give bees better hair?

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  • Sam Droege
    Jul 6, 2007


      Recently I was looking at hair dryers in the drug store.  I was struck by the Conair Ionshine whose literature states:

      "How do ions affect the hair?  Ions always exist in the atmosphere.  An ionic dryer generates clouds of negatively charged ions to neutralize positive ions.  They surround the hair shaft much like a hair conditioner does and they aid in reducing static electricity and fly-away frizzies which can dull the hair.  The result is shiny, conditioned, healthy hair for men and women of all ages, races and nationalities. "

      I wondered if this claim held true for bees.  So we ran a small study.  Bumblebees were taken from malaise sample taken by Dave Smith in Hardy County, West Virginia.  Kathryn Zarate then extracted five specimens and placed them in a pint canning jar with a screen top, washed for one minute in water with detergent, rinsed, drained, the water was shaken out 5 times,  and then specimens were blown dry in the jar for 3 minutes (2 minutes rolling the jar and 1 minute shaking).  In the first test 6 paired sets of bees were dried with one with the ionizer on and 1 with it off.  In the second 7 paired sets of bees were blown dry with the Conair Ionshine (with the ionizer off) and a Revlon  dryer (don't have the model number handy as it is at home).  Bees were then pinned given secret codes and presented to Sam Droege who chose one of each set as representing the best looking bees ("best" was not quantified and therefore the results may merely reflect a rather parochial and biased view of beauty).

      In test number 1 3 ionized and 3 nonionized sets were chose as "best."

      In test number 2 the Conair set was chosen 2 times and the Revlon set chosen 5 times.

      While samples sizes are low and the bees only judged by a single researcher, these preliminary results seem to indicate (at least on the surface) that ionizing bees while drying them has little effect on the look of their hair.  However, it should be noted that the Conair was not actually tested to see if it really was producing ions as claimed.  The USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab does not have the equipment to certify ions and therefore these results may prove different if, indeed, ions were not emanating from the dryer.   Interestingly, the Conair, despite its newness and fancy space gun shape did not outperform and older Revlon hair dryer.  We present these very preliminary results here to stimulate further inquiry into bee hair issues and in no way should it be construed that the USGS endorses any particular model of hair dryer.


      Sam Droege  Sam_Droege@...                      
      w 301-497-5840 h 301-390-7759 fax 301-497-5624
      USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
      BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD  20705

      He was in logic a great critic,
      Profoundly skill'd in analytic;
      He could distinguish, and divide
      A hair 'twixt south, and south-west side:
      On either which he would dispute,
      Confute, change hands, and still confute,
      He'd undertake to prove, by force
      Of argument, a man's no horse;
      He'd prove a buzzard is no fowl,
      And that a lord may be an owl,
      A calf an alderman, a goose a justice,
      And rooks Committee-men and Trustees.
      He'd run in debt by disputation,
      And pay with ratiocination.
      All this by syllogism, true
      In mood and figure, he would do.;
          -Exerpted From Hudibras, Samuel Butler

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