With the weather warming up (for good this time, we hope), bee shipments have arrived in the Northwoods. Most beekeepers this far north re-establish colonies each year, because the weather is too severe to keep hives going over the winter. This week our new bees arrived, so staff and students have been busy settling them into their new homes.
This year, in addition to our two hives outdoors in the school garden, we have a new observation hive in the Lowenstine Academic Building (LAB), built by my husband, Jack Weyrauch, who has a background in both carpentry and beekeeping, and who works with students on a variety of hands-on stewardship projects in conjunction with our Stewardship Coordinator, Jean Haack. (Jean and Jack, for example, have been guiding students this winter in building hoop houses for our garden beds.) Having an observation hive right in our main academic building will facilitate integrating our beekeeping activities into our academic program, because the hive’s walls are glass. Most of the time, the glass will be covered with wood panels to give the bees some privacy, and the panels can be removed and replaced easily whenever a class would like to study the hive.
Yesterday, Jean and Jack carefully removed the small queen cage from the bee shipment and placed the queen in the observation hive. They then closed up the hive and attached the wire transport cage full of the rest of the bees to a pipe that led into the observation hive. The colony, lured by the queen’s pheromones, gradually moved over the course of the day from the transport cage into the observation hive. Once the bees were in the hive, they began to work on releasing the queen from her individual cage, which was sealed with a marshmallow. By this morning, the queen was free and the worker drones were preparing cells for her eggs.
As you can see in the accompanying photos, students and staff moved newly arrived bees into the garden hives yesterday, as well. The buds on the fruit trees have started to break, and the first spring flowers are just beginning to bloom. We’ll be working hard over the next several weeks to get the garden in shape and to provide our bees and butterflies with plenty of nectar.
– Mary Anna
(Photos by Stefan & Fran)