Live From the Hive

Beekeeper Sarah opens the beehive and shows frames to visitors
Beekeeper and Center Event Manager Sarah Meyers demonstrates honey bees on a frame from one of the Center’s demonstration hives.
Over 3,000 people visited the Bayer Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, NC, in its first year. During warmer months, tours sometimes include a close look at a demonstration honey bee hive shown by one of the Center’s experts. Participants have an opportunity to see a hive from the safety of the screened in hive observation porch.  Here are answers to some of the most common questions asked during hive demonstrations. If you or a group is interested in visiting the Center, please consider registering today. In the meantime, read below for news from the Center’s demonstration hives each season since the Center opened in April 2014 or check out this video featuring a hive demonstration.

Late Summer 2015

This summer our demonstration hive had even more pollen and nectar choices from the Bayer Bee Center’s growing two-acre garden. What are they collecting and what is most beneficial for bees? Seasonal pollen and nectar charts categorized according to pollen color and beneficial value to bees are available from Eversweet Apiaries.

Abundant for late summer and early fall that offer pollen of high benefit to bees in Bayer’s Bee Care Center garden are:  goldenrod, sunflowers, oregano, lavender, sage, and sedum. Others are: yellow star-thistle, phacelia (tansy and others), white and yellow clover, white mustard, heather, New England aster, cilantro, fennel and wild mint and many more.

Knowing that there are no truly "healthy" hives, we checked the demonstration hive's mite levels in August and September and applied mite treatment.

Dick Rogers, manager of Bayer bee health and integrative apiculture research, recently worked with other U.S. bee experts on the Honey Bee Health Coalition to produce a booklet, “Tools for Varroa Management, A Guide to Effective Sampling & Control”. The guide lays out an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy for managing Varroa mite infestations that includes: how to monitor mite levels, chemical and non-chemical methods to control the mites, and methods to determine which treatment is appropriate for a beekeeper to use at different phases in a colony’s life cycle. A mite wash demonstration video conducted by Dick Rogers is available on our website.

Late Spring 2015

blue queen
One of the Bee Care Center’s demonstration hives is led by a newly-emerged queen marked with a blue dot on the back of her thorax. See the 2015 queen in this video and learn more about the International Queen Marking Color Code.

Early Spring 2015

The Bee Care Center’s pollinator garden is waking up with spring colors and flowers. Now in its second year, the two-acre garden provides supplemental forage the bumble bee and honey bee hives we keep at the Bee Care Center.

The Center’s honey bees have noticed the new food choices in bloom, with a steady stream of foragers bringing pollen and nectar to the demonstration hive. “If you look carefully, you might observe the heavily laden bees crawling into the hive with saddlebag-like yellow bulges on their hind legs,” said Kim Huntzinger, bee health laboratory diagnostic specialist at the Center. “That’s pollen packed into their corbiculae, or pollen baskets.”

Below are some of the flowers that offer nutrition and forage for the Center’s demonstration
hive in March.


Blue Moon Phlox Forsythia Goat Willow
Blue Moon Phlox
Forsythia Goat Willow
Mahonia Bealei Okame Cherry Yoshino Cherry
Mahonia Bealei Okame Cherry Yoshino Cherry

hive on poop dayOn a warm day in our southern winter and early spring, visitors can see lots of bees flying directly outside the hive. Some of the flying honey bees are taking cleansing flights while others may actually be looking for winter blooming plants that might yield small amounts of pollen and/or nectar! Honey bees need cleansing flights in winter to purge waste products from their bodies which can also have the benefit of limiting the spread of diseases such as Nosemosis which is caused by a gut parasite.

Winter 2014/2015

Nineteen of the Bayer Bee Care Center’s 21 research colonies located in 3 apiaries survived the 2014-15 winter. Losses were attributable to Varroa mite infestations that we allowed to establish for research purposes. One of the keys to successful wintering of honey bee colonies is to reduce Varroa mite infestations by late summer to protect the new bees that will endure the winter months.

It is also important to feed the colonies starting late summer to ensure that sufficient food is stored in the hives to last the winter period. We ensured that each hive had enough stored honey to feed the colony until nectar flow increased later in the spring. Some of the Center’s hives were given pollen patties in late winter to encourage brood production.

Late Fall 2014

broad frame bees
The tan, capped cells cover brood that will soon emerge as adult worker bees. The uncapped cells will be for future brood or honey stores. Worker bees care for the young developing brood by feeding them bee bread (pollen and honey mixture).
 “Our demo hive is now truly a ‘Smart Hive,’” says Dick Rogers, research manager for the Center.

The Bee Care Center’s demonstration hive is doing well as we approach winter. The queen's egg-laying has greatly declined based on the natural seasonal cycle of colony brood production.

The bees are consuming some of their spring/summer food stores and are collecting pollen from a variety of plants that are currently in bloom, although foraging has slowed with cooler temperatures. (Bees will not fly outside the hive when outside temperatures are below 55 degrees F as their flight muscles cannot warm up enough for flying activity.)

The bees are also consuming extra sugar water to boost their honey stores for winter. There are about four frames of mixed brood in all stages of development which means the queen is doing well and continuing her egg laying, even though it has greatly slowed. The adult bees that emerged in October will live throughout the winter months, much longer than their spring/summer sisters who only live four to six weeks.

Hives should not be opened in cold weather to check the colony and food supply. So one of the best ways to gauge what’s going on inside the hive is by remotely monitoring weight change and brood temperature as well as other hive conditions. Bee Care Center staff installed a scale under the demonstration hive and other Smart Hive components at the Center in November.

Early Fall 2014

Hive and Boots
Beekeeper Sarah Myers removes the
inner cover before pulling frames to
inspect the beehive. The hive was
last opened October 30 and will not
be opened again until warm weather
this spring. It's important to monitor
for mites — and treat accordingly —
before bees begin overwintering. The
demonstration hive was tested for mites
this past spring and the  alcohol wash
monitoring method showed low mite
numbers, so treatment was needed.
The Bee Care Center's five-month-old hive now has roughly 50,000 bees, compared to a typical honey bee colony's population of 40,000-60,000 bees, although the growth rate is now diminishing. The queen is doing well, but is now slowing down on the number of eggs laid as compared to 1,000-1,500 eggs every day earlier in the summer. Drones are still around, but outside activity is slowing down as the nectar flow slows. Knowing that there are no "healthy" hives, we will be checking the hive's mite levels this month and applying mite treatment according to what monitoring results reveal.

The hive still has all stages of brood development (egg, larvae, pupae and adult) and lots of stored pollen and honey.

Summer 2014

During the summer, the Bee Care Center’s demonstration hive did so well that our beekeepers split it into two more colonies. (A split is when half of the bees are put into a new hive with a queen cell which will soon emerge into an adult queen or queens are sometimes purchased.) Our beekeepers didn't have any queen cells or queens available when they did the split, so they took frames with 1-3 day old eggs and used those as a way to entice the two new splits to raise a queen. The first split raised a queen successfully. The second split did not raise a queen after multiple attempts, so they combined them with a weaker colony that had a queen but could use extra workers. The bees from both of the split hives are now doing well and residing at our Eastern Bee Care Technology Station in Clayton, NC. The demonstration hive still resides at the Bee Care Center with the queen who emerged on the Center's grand opening day April 15.

Spring 2014

green queen bees
The Bee Care Center's queen has a flair for drama — emerging on the Center’s grand opening day April 15, 2014. She was marked with a small drop of green paint so that she can be easily identified in the hive and to track how old she is. Beekeepers use a color coding system each year for marking the queen's age and the color for 2014 is green.
The queen of the Bee Care Center's observation hive emerged from her cell when the Center opened on April 15 and she has been busy laying eggs and growing the colony population ever since.

Right now the hive has roughly 25,000–30,000 bees, well on the way to a typical honey bee colony's population high of 40,000-60,000 bees. The queen lays 1,000-1,500 eggs every day and the hive has all stages of brood development (egg, larvae, pupae and adult) and lots of stored pollen and honey.

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