The keepers who met to winterize the hives included UB Bees director David Hoekstra (not pictured); Noah Wichlacz, a UB junior studying electrical engineering (not pictured); and (from left) Matthew Gibbs, a SUNY Buffalo State student; Riley Blasiak, a UB junior studying civil engineering and environmental engineering; and Alex Chimiak, a UB senior studying environmental science.
UB Bees director David Hoekstra, clinical assistant professor of biological sciences, installs a mouse guard to prevent rodents from moving into the hives as the weather grows colder.
Hoekstra holds up a frame of bees — all female, he notes. The story of how bees survive the winter is somewhat ghastly. Hoekstra says that in the fall, female worker bees banish male drones, sometimes literally pulling them out of the hive and leaving them outside to die. Male bees serve no purpose to the colony during winter — since they cannot defend the hive and do not forage for food, take care of the young or clean the hive — so sending them away reduces demand for food at a time when nectar and pollen are scarce, Hoekstra explains.
As humans practice social distancing, honeybees will survive the winter in part by crowding together to help stay warm.
Bees crawl on a grate called a “queen excluder,” which prevents the queen from entering the boxes where excess honey is collected by UB Bees beekeepers. The grates help to keep harvested honey free of eggs or brood, Hoekstra says. The UB Bees project only collects honey during the warmer months, so in the fall, beekeepers remove the grates to allow the queen of each hive to roam wherever she wants.
Rodents love to overwinter inside honeybee hives, where they stay warm and have access to plenty of food, Hoekstra says. To prevent them from entering the hive, beekeepers installed metal rodent guards at the hive entrance.
A screen mesh is installed over the inner cover of the bee hive. This prevents bees from getting out of the hive (and other intruders from getting in), while still allowing air and moisture to flow out.
Pine wood chips are added to the roof of a hive. These provide insulation and help to control moisture during the colder seasons.
Beekeepers wrap the hives with insulation to keep them warm over the winter. From left: Alex Chimiak, David Hoekstra and Matthew Gibbs.
David Hoekstra (left) and Matthew Gibbs finish insulating a hive. As humans across Western New York prepare their homes for winter, beekeepers did the same for the UB Bees’ living quarters. Such measures helped all six of the project’s hives survive the last winter.
Published November 9, 2020