The Bees are Back in Town

by Peter Gordon, Elachee Education Director

Have you heard the buzz? Elachee’s demonstration bee hives are hard at work. The hives are part of the Mike and Robbie McCormac Pollinator Exhibit currently under development as a new interactive feature at Elachee’s Visitor Center. Each hive features plexiglass viewing panels allowing students and visitors to see the wonder of the hives in action. Demonstration bee hives at Elachee Nature Science Center

In late April, Elachee’s bee consultant Garry McGlaun and staff installed the first hive. They mounted the Queen’s box, her private traveling compartment, in the top section of the hive. Three pounds of bees (about 5,000) were then set free in the hive exhibit.

To keep the mass from flying during this transfer, Garry sprayed them with a calming sugar water mist. Those that did fly began alighting on the Queen’s compartment. Others followed.

By day two, the hive had released the sequestered Queen by chewing through the cork stopper in her compartment. The vast majority of the worker bees were massed at the top of the hive. Many were already building the curtains of wax comb that will house the hive’s offspring and honey.

The hive was fully settled in by day three. A handful of bees had discovered the entrance and egress tube leading outside to the pollinator garden, part of the scenic Geiger Garden. Last fall, The Fockele Garden Company completed the garden, and installed a meditation bench and fenced viewing area for visitors to sit and watch the bees come and go.

Because the hive’s comb building had accelerated, within a few short days there was sufficient space for both the Queen to lay her eggs and the workers to begin storing honey and protein-rich pollen.

At full capacity one demonstration hive will house up to 10,000 bees. Garry and Elachee Education Director Peter Gordon actively manage the hives to ensure they don’t become overcrowded.

The second Elachee demonstration hive saw its bees in late April, with the purchase of a nuclear hive or ‘nuc’ from a local apiary. Nucs are comprised of four to five wooden frames containing wax comb from which the bees have already drawn out. These act as ‘seed’ hives of sorts as they already include a Queen, worker bees, larvae and stored honey. 

Visitors may see the queens and workers in action, then walk a few steps further into Platt Hall to learn about another great pollinator – the bat.