Day two of our edu-vacation at Oregon State University’s Honey Bee Research Lab was all hands-on! Ellen and Carolyn took us out to their research apiary which was on the edge of town in the rural farmland area. The knowledge we took away from this experience was invaluable. There is something to be said about just diving in and learning by doing. I encourage all beekeepers to learn in this way, by shadowing an expert!
Carolyn and Ellen taught us how packages of bees are made. Packages are a popular way for new beekeepers to get started. They can buy these 3-5lbs of bees in a wooden package or box. It’s filled with bees, a mated queen, and can of syrup feed which are made from existing hives. Frames of bees are shaken into a tall funnel and the bees make their way down into the wooden box.
Next, the queen must be captured and gently placed into a separate cage. This is to keep her safe from worker bees who many not have been from her original hive, therefore a bit skeptical of her unfamiliar pheromones. Keeping the queen in this cage allows the worker bees in the package to adapt to her scent.
We were later allowed to install this package of bees into the top bar hive back at the educational apiary. During this process, Ellen and Carolyn taught us more about bees’ pheromones and how they use them to communicate. We learned that worker bees release a “homing” pheromone during events like this – being installed into a new home. It allows them to communicate to the other bees that this is the new home and to stay here, rather than fly away. The scent was recognizable – it smelled just like lemon-scented Pledge cleaner! Very bizarre to us, but so important and helpful to these bees in their new home.
Our adventures in the research apiary continued when we were sent to inspect a few struggling hives to determine why there were in poor condition. The reasons were fascinating! Check out my next blog for all the deets. Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!