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A great summer for the Insectarium bees!

Bees
Credit: Gregory Lynch
Bees
A great summer for the Insectarium bees!

This summer has been a great one for the bees at the Insectarium. The hives here have done exceptionally well, in the process helping pollinate the surrounding gardens. As the beekeeper here, it’s been a pleasure caring for these bees. Let’s explore why they’re so healthy and happy.

Bees like a quiet environment with sunshine and not too much wind. In addition to those conditions the bees at the Insectarium enjoy a safe place to live, relaxing and free from pesticides. This lack of stress and of threats to their health is a great advantage of living here. Plus, the weather this summer was exceptional. 

A balanced diet

Bees essentially have two sources of food in their diet: nectar (for energy) and pollen (for protein). Having access to these elements is essential to their survival, but having a variety of sources is even better – the Insectarium gardens, surrounded by the Botanical Garden, has amazing variety and constitutes a healthful feast for our bees.

A sweet treat

When the Insectarium bees collect nectar throughout the gardens, they carry it back to the hive in their “honey stomachs,” then pass the nectar to the other workers. The nectar is thus passed from stomach to stomach until it gets to the comb. The bees beat their wings to dry out the honey, and when it’s dry enough, they close the cells with wax and save it for later.

This year these bees had a great season and produced an amazing 95 liters of honey. In July, during hive inspections, I found that the supers (boxes with ten frames of honeycomb) were surprisingly heavy, weighing up to 40 kilograms – quite a challenge to lift to head level when you’re busy working with the bees! That said, you’re always happy when you think of what’s inside.

What about the winter?

As the temperature drops outside, the bees work to ensure that the queen and any larvae (baby bees) stay warm. To do this they cluster around the queen. The bees closest to the queen vibrate to produce heat while the bees at the outside of the cluster pack tightly together, acting as a blanket to keep the heat in.

To help the hard-working bees at the Insectarium get through the winter, a few weeks ago we shifted the hives behind a lovely cedar hedge so that they’re well protected from the wind. We packed them close together there and wrapped them with insulation. Now they can work together to keep each other warm, and come spring we’ll see them out enjoying the gardens for another season.

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