Our popular observation beehive exhibit has returned to the Visitor Center!
Each year in the fall the frames in the observation beehive are returned to a hive box located in the field behind the Visitor Center. This is done so that the bees can respond properly to the cooler winter temperatures and not become confused by the warm temperatures found in the Visitor Center during the winter. Colder temperatures and shorter days will prompt the bees to make several behavioral changes including a process of evicting male bees, known as drones from the hive. The sole purpose of drones is to mate with the queen; during the winter the queen produces fewer eggs eliminating the need for drones. Where the drones are not contributing to hive upkeep they are removed to reduce the strain on food supply.
Once the weather starts to warm up and the hives have recovered a bit from the stress of winter, the Kennebec Valley Beekeepers select a hive as a candidate for the observation hive exhibit. This process involves splitting a hive, which means removing some of the frames from one hive and placing them into the new location. The frames that are removed do not have a queen, lack of a queen will prompt the worker bees to create one by selecting a few brood cells to feed a special diet. The diet of larvae determines how they will develop, workers bees will feed larvae accordingly based on the hives needs. Workers will generally create several queen cells, generally the first queen to hatch will kill the remaining developing queens.
After a queen has hatched she will take on the responsibility of laying eggs to replace hive members. Before she can do this though she must go on a "mating flight". Aside from this moment, queen bees will seldom leave the hive. Drone bees, produced by the same hive or another nearby hive, lie waiting for a queen to fly by just outside the hive. Once she encounters a drone, mating will take place in flight, afterwards she will return to the hive and begin laying fertilized eggs.
Worker bees are responsible for all of the duties of maintaining the hive. Bees participate in hive maintenance by completing different tasks around the hive such as rearing larvae, cleaning, nectar collection, making comb and honey making. The job that is performed by a specific bee changes in regards to its age and experience.
Come catch a glimpse of the remarkable lives of honeybees in the Visitor Center Wednesday-Saturday from 10:30-4:30!