What’s Happening, Honey Bees?

If you make your way to the second floor of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, you’ll find a one of our most dynamic exhibits: our real, live, honeybee hive! With glass walls and a special entrance & exit to the outside world just for bees, it’s easy to spend hours just watching as the bees go about their busy day.

 

Recently, you may have seen a crowd of honey bees gathering around their special entrance. There are two reasons they might do this.

 

Our intern Tym holding up a piece of honeycomb.

Our intern Tym holding up a piece of honeycomb.

The first is called “bearding”, because the cluster of bees on the outside makes it look like their hive has a beard! Bees do this to try          and lower the temperature inside their hive. They even flap their wings to act like fans!

 

The second reason bees gather outside their hive is because they’re preparing to “swarm”. When the hive gets cramped, the queen      bee lays some eggs that will grow into other queens. Because each hive can only have one queen, the old queen takes about half of            the worker bees and flies away to find a new place to live, leaving her daughter as the new queen bee.

 

The group of bees that leaves is called a swarm. The new swarm gathers on the outside of the hive, making a giant mass of bees! No  need to worry about getting stung; to make sure they don’t get hungry on the journey, swarming bees eat lots of honey. Their full  bellies make them so happy, they rarely, if ever, sting during this process!

The beekeeper looking for the queen bee, to make sure she stays with us!

The beekeeper looking for the queen bee, to make sure she stays with us!

 

Twice this year, our bees have started to swarm. We had a lot of days where our window was covered in thousands of bees!

To make sure they found a good home, we took them to the Audobon Society, where our beekeeper split the hive in half. She took a new queen and some bees to a new home and we got the other half back with our current queen.

The second time this happened was last week. Now our hive has lots of space for new bees! Even with so many fewer bees to hide amongst, our queen bee is really hard to spot. If you see her, let us know!

 

Next time you’re at the Museum & Theatre, make sure to stop by the hive on the second floor! We’re sure you’ll agree it’s the bees’ knees.

The Buzz About Our New Bees

Please check out this cool gallery of images taken yesterday by our Director of Exhibits Chris Sullivan, as our brand new beehive was being installed. The bees were moved to their new temporary home in the Ranger Station on our second floor.

Some facts about the bees and our hive:

  • Davida Sky is our master beekeeper, with over 26 years of beekeeping experience. She will be checking in on the bees monthly to monitor them to make sure they are healthy and having a good time.
  • The queen is marked with a bright green dot on her back. Each year the new queens are marked with a different color, so in addition to being a tool for finding the queen, it is a way for beekeepers to track a queen’s age.
  • The new hive is an 8 frames hive from Bonterra Bees in Bar Harbor, Maine, almost 3 times bigger than our last one. This extra space gives the bees space to store enough honey to survive through the winter.

Bee Cam!

I think besides the Dress Up Theatre, the Ranger Station is my favorite place in the Museum & Theatre. I love going in there to watch the turtles swim around and to search for the queen bee. Bees are a little harder to watch than turtles, though, because they move so fast. But now you can see the bees up close and personal with our new bee camera. If you haven’t visited our beehive or you’d like to see what they’ve been up to since you left, here is a quick video I shot:

The bees are only here in the spring and summer months! Don’t miss the chance to search for that ever elusive queen bee (hint: she has a white dot on her back!).