Capitol Honey Bee Project Update

In spring of 2016, two honey bee hives were installed on the grounds of the Governor’s mansion in Olympia. Both hives began collecting pollen and nectar from local blossoms, carrying it back to their new “homes.” As the Olympia Beekeepers Association project team continued to check on their progress, one of the hives demonstrated signs of a problem with its queen.

For a honey bee colony to thrive, the queen must lay at least 1,000 eggs per day during the spring and summer months. The queen was not producing enough eggs and hive failure was inevitable without intervention.

New queen

Introducing a new queen to a bee colony can be tricky. The existing bees are used to their original queen’s pheromone, or signature scent. If the existing bees do not accept the new queen, she will be killed and the colony will collapse. Despite using techniques to ensure the new queen’s success, it took multiple trials to get the failing hive back on track.

Both hives continued to bring in nectar and create honey throughout the summer months, the bees’ winter survival food. The team was hopeful that the bees had built up their population enough to make it through the winter. Both colonies had also been treated for varroa mites - an external parasite that attacks honey bees. Monitoring for the hives showed the treatment had been successful.

Monitoring and results

In late December, an opportunity to peek into the hives to observe activity level and food supply presented itself. In the mansion hives, plenty of honey was observed but sadly, no sign of bee life.  

Beekeepers monitor hives to troubleshoot and intervene when conditions require assistance to ensure the bees’ survival. These hives were carefully monitored and supported since their installation. A single cause of failure could not be identified.

The cause was likely a combination of factors, such as: difficulty finding suitable plants for foraging (particularly when conditions get hot and dry and food sources are limited); pesticide or herbicide exposure or nectar, pollen or water that had been contaminated with pesticides; or some other unknown factor.

Hive survival trends

Many other beekeepers are observing similar fates to their hives. While the colony loss numbers for 2016-17 are still forthcoming, beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their colonies in 2015-16. The Olympia Beekeepers Association losses were at 48 percent in the same time frame.

Honey bee colony loss is no longer just a beekeeper’s problem. Washington State has a vibrant and vital agricultural economy. Honey bee and pollinator losses, should they continue at these high levels, will have an impact on our agricultural economy. This impact could potentially affect the cost and variety of food that is produced.

What’s next

Two new honey bee colonies were installed at the Governor’s Mansion on April 21. Working in collaboration with the Governor and Mrs. Inslee and the Department of Enterprise Services, the Olympia Beekeepers Association will monitor the hives throughout the coming months. The public is encouraged to support a healthy environment to help the bees thrive.

Honey bees are interested in pollen and nectar, and not people. You are not likely to get stung by a honey bee unless you step on it, threaten its home or swat at it. Honey bees forage for their food as they look for flowers and weeds (like dandelion and clover) within a four-mile radius from their hive location.

What you can do

People who live on or manage property near the Capitol Campus can avoid spraying nearby plants with pesticide or herbicide. Doing so can be problematic because one honey bee can sip the nectar of a hundred flowers on a single foraging trip, carrying a toxic load back to its hive. Considering there are tens of thousands of bees in each hive, this can produce both long and short-term toxicity and destroy the entire colony. Pesticide exposure can also kill bees outright.

You can choose to be bee-friendly by planting things like various herbs and flowers, growing fruit trees and berries, letting the dandelions and clover grow in your lawn, naturalizing with native plants, and replacing noxious weeds with plants suitable for bees. Their survival in the long-term is a problem we all need to have a hand in turning around.

Mite Busters! How to avoid colony loss this winter.

To avoid colony loss this winter you MUST act now!

Mite bustersOur August Program featured the dynamic honey bee expert and Green River College Professor Danny Najera sharing his latest knowledge and information.

Download: The Mite Busters Handout (PDF 10.5MB)

More links for Danny's work;

See GRCC honeybees on Facebook here!
Make donations to his honeybee program here.
Tracking our Native Blooms here.

Honey Bee Project at the Governor’s Mansion

Two hives were placed on the front lawn of the Governor's Executive Residence at the Washington State Capitol and honey bees installed on April 20, 2016.

The project, a collaboration between the Olympia Beekeepers Association and the Washington Department of Enterprise Services will help raise public awareness about the decline of bee populations, our dependence on them to pollinate much of the food we eat and their importance to Washington's agricultural economy. The honey bees will also be boosting the pollination of plants at the mansion on on the Capitol Campus.

 

Links to recent articles on the project in the news:

http://www.theolympian.com/news/politics-government/article73484692.html

http://www.king5.com/news/local/governors-mansion-gets-30000-honey-bees/145674691

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article73484907.html

http://q13fox.com/2016/04/20/bees-installed-on-capitol-campus-in-olympia/

http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20160421/washington-capitol-buzzing-with-ags-littlest-lobbyists

http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article72268317.html

http://www.thurstontalk.com/2016/04/21/honeybees-capitol-washington/

http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/Bee-hives-installed-on-lawn-of-Washington-7249071.php#photo-9803250

Honey Bees Coming to the Washington State Governors Mansion!

Installation of stand and hive boxes was completed today by the OBA's Capitol Bee Team. The new buzzing residents at the Governor's Mansion will officially arrive on April 20th. The OBA is thrilled to be collaborating with Governor and Mrs. Inslee and the Department of Enterprise Services at the Capitol on this project.

OBA Members and Trudi Inslee, Wasingtons First Lady
(In the picture below, left to right, Brent Chapman, DES; Jeff Coleman, Duane McBride, Mark Emrich, First Lady Trudi Inslee, Laurie Pyne)

Upcoming OBA Volunteer Opportunities in 2015

Volunteering with OBA is a rewarding experience – getting to share information about honeybees, honey-tasting and seeing eyes light up at the sight of our observation hive is just plain fun! Build professional and personal skills and gain confidence in your beekeeping practices at the same time! Even if you are a new beekeeper OBA can always benefit from offering a smiling face and willingness to help.

Volunteer to staff the BEE BOOTH at the Thurston County Fair

http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/fair

July 29 – August 2nd, 2015 (Wed-Sun)

(Come find us! We're in the building next to the Pollinator Garden across from the 'Livestock Auction Barn')

Have Great fun at the Bee Booth!

WHAT YOU'LL DO: Hang out in the “Bee Booth and Pollinator Garden" and answer questions! Paul and Pat will have more details to all volunteers at the July Bee meeting. No experience needed to volunteer. New beekeepers, this is a great learning opportunity. Helps earn points toward your Journeyman certificate.

The sign-up is for a 4 hour increments. You will not have to pay for entry to the fair while volunteering and you will have mini break’s to enjoy your fair time.

We are trying to ensure that we have three people for each shift with at least one more experience member at each shift for the hard questions.

Daily shifts are:

10am -2pm

2pm – 6pm

6pm -10pm except for the last day of the fair we close at 8pm.

HOW TO SIGN UP: If you interested in volunteering, Email me at paullongwell@comcast.net stating your name and the time you want to volunteer and I will add you. Also you can sign up at the July meeting.

Can’t make the fair? Here’s another opportunity.

We also need help decorating the Bee Booth the weekend before the fair, which is the weekend of 25th and 26th July. Let us know if you have cool bee stuff to contribute or if you want to lend a hand. The public is currently very interested in bees, beekeeping, and the problems with bee health. As beekeepers, it is our responsibility to educate the public on these issues. Like it or not, public outreach and education is a non-stop and essential duty of all beekeeping associations, including the OBA. If you volunteer, THANK YOU! If you do not, please consider it. Not all volunteer work requires you to engage the public. It does not take much time and is extremely gratifying.