While walking through campus, you may have noticed the yellow caution tape and what looks to be a bee hive box at the Allen Whitehill Clowes Oriental Garden and Tea House. Well, that’s exactly what it is! Over the summer, a colony of honeybees decided to move into a column at the entrance of the tea house located in the Japanese garden on campus. While most of the time bees and humans live together in harmony, we decided this wasn’t the best place for them to reside, so a plan was crafted to remove the colony in a humane way.
Typically, if a honeybee colony moves into a structure, the best option is to remove the wall or panel so that a trained beekeeper can access the hive and extract it. All of the honeycomb is removed and, so long as the queen can be located and removed along with the colony and honeycomb, the colony can be placed in a hive box and maintained at another location by a beekeeper. Unfortunately, this was not an option at the tea house due to the historic nature of the building and the inability to remove a portion of the column successfully while being able to replace it after removal.
Another option, the option that is currently being used, is to “trap out” the colony. This method is much more labor intensive, and there are many steps to the process. Stephanie Schuck, Marian’s outdoor education and restoration coordinator for the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab, is leading the trap out with the help of EcoLab volunteers, local expert beekeepers, and the student Apiculture Club at Marian University.
A new hive has been placed next to the tea house, and the hive located inside the column will be excluded from entering back into the tea house once they have exited. Once the excluder is attached to their entrance, they will be able to come out but not get back in, and they will join the hive placed next to the tea house. This process can take a few weeks, depending on the size of the colony inside the structure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I’m worried for my safety! Should I be worried that there are bees on campus?
A: The caution tape barriers are there for a reason, and as long as those barriers are respected there is no need for concern. We already have bees on campus everywhere, doing what they do best (pollination!), and they rarely if ever cause harm or become aggressive unless they are actively attacked. Bees that are foraging are generally not concerned with you because they have a job to do. Do not bother them or walk up to the hive, and they will not bother you.
Q: I was stung once at a picnic by “bees” that were hovering over my soda and in the trash can. Will that happen because of these bees?
A: No! Bees are NOT wasps or hornets, and they often get a bad reputation because of them. Wasps tend to be more aggressive, and are often the culprits. Yellow jackets are a good example of this, and are probably what is crashing your picnic fun. Honeybees rarely, if ever, behave in this way. Also, honeybees are one of the very few species that can only sting once and then they die, so it is their very last resort of defense. Most of our other bee and wasp species can sting repeatedly (if threatened). If you do get stung by a true honeybee, remove the stinger as soon as possible to limit the amount of venom injected.
Q: Will I ever be able to visit the tea house again?
A: Yes absolutely. Our goal is to have them removed this fall, and then the priority will be to close up any holes so that someone else doesn’t try to move in. The tea house should be back to normal very soon.
Q: Well this is super interesting. What else can you tell me about bees?
A: Bees are a keystone species, and are incredibly important to our survival. This means that if they were removed, it would severely affect the habitat and the plants and animals within that habitat (and we are included in those that would be affected). 1 out of every 3 bites of food requires pollination by bees! Many people don’t realize this, but there are about 5,000 different species of bees native to North America, and almost 20,000 found worldwide. Honeybees are actually not native to North America – they were brought over by the pioneers who used their honey and beeswax in the 1600’s, but they have naturalized well since then. Bees in North America range widely in size and play an extremely crucial role on this planet. Most native bee species to Indiana are solitary, unlike the honeybee that lives in a colony, and the honeybee is one of a very few species that actually overwinter as a colony. Most bees that live socially in a colony will die out by winter, with only the mated queens surviving until spring to start new colonies. This only scratches the surface of all the amazing facts about bees, so if you are wanting to learn more check out the resources provided below!
At Marian, we are guided by our Franciscan values, and while there is a clear connection of those values to how we treat our fellow human beings, it also connects us to all of the other beings on this planet. St. Francis was a champion for nature and animals, and he provides an excellent example of someone who was aware, appreciative, and protective of all God’s creation. Bee populations are continuing to suffer due to disease, parasites, and pesticide use, and they need our help now more than ever.
Still have questions? Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to talk about bees!
For more information on bees and other important pollinators, and how you can help, check out these bee-friendly online resources:
Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees
USDA Forest Service
Texas A&M Honey Bee Lab
EPA: Colony Collapse Disorder