Drama at the Beehive

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The Downtown Greenway beehive has been buzzing with excitement – and turmoil!

First established in April 2021, the honey bee hive is located within the Public Orchard at Meeting Place, our Tradition Cornerstone at the corner of Smith Street and Prescott Street. Thanks to the expertise and efforts of our volunteer beekeepers, Amy Moyle and TJ Mayer, the hive has successfully settled in over the last year and a half. Earlier this summer, however, things were not looking so great. For some reason, the original colony of Italian bees (a traditionally calm and docile breed, which is great for educational purposes) had moved out and abandoned the hive – possibly due to troublesome skunks in the area.

In their place, a new colony of “squatter bees” had moved in; however, they were certainly not as friendly. The result was a beehive full of rather angry and aggressive bees, who were not suitable for our community park setting. Even these bees were not happy with their situation, as there was then a mutiny within the colony! The drone bees decided they wanted to new leadership, and so the poor Queen met a tragic demise and was killed off. In actuality, this is not uncommon within honey bee colonies, but is typically done to help improve their overall colony health and reproductive abilities.

A hive without a Queen runs the risk of failing, so the drone bees got to work right away to prepare a replacement! One of the late Queen’s daughter’s – a worker bee egg – was then selected to become their new leader. After hatching, this particular larva was fed “royal jelly” to encourage her ultimate growth into their new Queen. Our hope was that this new Queen would help to calm her colony, seeing as they had grown her themselves – but the troubles did not stop there and the aggressive behavior continued.

Fast forward another month, and our beekeeper team embarked on a fascinating undertaking – to capture the Queen and replace her with a new (and calm) Italian Queen we purchased from Triad Bee Supply. So we did just that. Perhaps she sensed what was about to happen, because she was certainly difficult to locate. After almost 40 minutes of tedious searching through the frames and hive boxes, TJ spotted her! She was moved into a temporary beehive box, along with two of her frames that held some of the colony’s pollen, honey, drones and workers; we wanted to be sure she was setup for success wherever she next called home.

We then walked down Prescott Street with the box – in full beekeeping attire no less, looking like a scene out of a science-fiction move – to donate these bees to a fellow beekeeper. Kaira Wagoner, PhD is a Research Scientist in UNCG’s Biology Department, who studies honey bee health and also maintains the hives at the nearby Black Diamond Community Garden. She graciously accepted this donation and relocated our aggressive bee friends across town to another beehive location. Thankfully, after a few weeks of adjustment, our bees are thriving again. As the new Queen produced more eggs (of the Italian breed), the colony slowly transformed back to an entire community of docile Italian bees, and our friendly educational beehive is back. And the rest, as they say, is history!

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