Guest Post: All A-Buzz at The Farm
By, Devin Ingersoll (2014)
As the weather warms up there is something new buzzing about among the fruits and veggies at the Farm at Stonehill – Italian Honey Bees!
In May of this year the Farm began working with The Best Bees Company, a company based out of the South End of Boston, MA offering beekeeping services to over 200 clients throughout New England in rural, suburban, and urban habitats. All profits fund research to improve honey bee health at the Urban Beekeeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary, also located in the South End. The company installed our very own beehive stocked with Italian Honey Bees on May 16th. The hive is located near a boggy area (for water) and our Apple Orchard, but the bees can travel up to 5 miles from the hive as they complete their work and will happily pollinate our crops for this season and years to come.
Why Italian honey bees, you say? This species of honey bee is known for its productivity and docile nature – hardworking and friendly (a lot like our farm crew!). Beekeepers will come out to the hive once a month to check on the bees and at the end of the season harvest the honey and wax for us as well. The company provides friendly and informative monthly reports like this:
After checking your hive last Thursday, we are happy to report that your hive is very active and healthy. The queen has been laying, giving your colony around 8 frame sides of brood. There are nearly 4 frame sides of honey production under way, but nothing fully capped to pull yet. We added a second box to your hive, giving your bees another 20 frame sides to inhabit. Your colony is utilizing 16 out of the now 40 frame sides currently in place.
Operations at Best Bees
Alia, one of the beekeepers informed us that we may see up to 10-20 lbs of honey this first season. Depending upon the amount of honey we see we will decide upon where it will be sold or donated – keep an eye on the blog for more information on this as the season progresses!
Honey bees live in a very well-organized and well-maintained hives usually in small, enclosed spaces. Humans have used this trait to their advantage and have created boxes where honeybees are usually perfectly happy to create a home. The bees work together to build their geometric honeycombs from wax secreted from their abdomens. Each individual honeycomb hexagon is used to store pollen, honey, or developing bee larva. Just as caterpillars turn into butterflies, bees undergo metamorphosis as they transform from the egg to larva to pupa to adult honeybee.
When you peek into the hive thousands of bees – our hive was started with around 10,000 bees – are busily buzzing about performing their designated tasks. Each hive has one queen bee that lays all of the eggs for the hive (up to 1,000 a day!). The majority hatch into worker bees who take care of the larvae, build and clean the nest, and leave the hive to forage for food all in their 5-7 week lifespan. Lastly there are about 100-500 male or drone bees that hatch and subsequently leave the nest to mate with other queens in hives nearby and immediately die.
As worker bees forage for food (pollen and nectar) from the flowering plants nearby they also act as pollinators for those plants. Without pollination the plants could not complete their life cycle and produce all of the fruits and seeds necessary to continue life as we know it – there would be no fruits or seeds to provide energy to humans and all living things to thrive. We need bees and other beneficial insects, no matter how small, to ensure a healthy ecosystem.
As the summer rolls on we are excited to see the bees buzzing about knowing that without the bees and other pollinators our crops – flowers, veggies, fruits and herbs – would not be as bountiful and delicious as they are today!
For more information about the social behavior of bees check out the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium following and Beespotter.
Maybe you may want to try out beekeeping for yourself next year – check out this site for some information to get you started!
Next time you are at the Farm check out the hive (next to the compost pile) and watch our bees buzzing about!