Greene County News Report
FAIRBORN — For quite some time, there has been a decline in pollinators such as bees, birds, and other insects. This drop has caused some very real problems in the success of our agriculture and ecosystem. To help encourage the return of these important pollinators, President Obama issued a mandate to improve and promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators through the Pollinator Health Task Force.
As a result, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base partnered with the Propolis Project, LLC, Levin Family Foundation, and they placed four hives, containing 40,000 Apis melliflera carnica bees, at Huffman Prairie, during an the event held June 16, during Pollinator Week, which was observed June 15 through 21.
Dwight Wells, project coordinator with the Propolis Project, inspected the bee hives last week to see if the colonies had proper stores of honey and pollen.
“[I] ensure the queens were laying eggs [and] the brood population [is] normal,” Wells said. “After the queen lays an egg, it is in that stage for three days, [eating] brood milk, which is produced by the nurse bees [which they make from eating pollen and honey], and after 12 days the bee emerges as an adult.”
Wells will inspect the young colonies weekly to ensure they have enough food to last them through the winter. He explains that during the winter months, the colony of bees cluster into a ball to keep warm. Besides having heavy coats of hair that provide them with insulation throughout the cluster, and between December to January, heater bees disconnect their wings and vibrate their muscles to generate heat for the colony at about 84 degrees.
“Due to the ability of insects to exploit every aspect of human culture and lifestyle, they are viewed as pests who transmit disease and parasites in our homes,” he said. “But they are also essential to our food production, acting as pollinators to our crops.”
Then around the middle of January, the Queen will start laying eggs again, and the temperature inside the cluster will be raised about ten degrees.
“It is important to understand that insects are the most abundant animals on earth, and their primary competitors are humans,” said Dr. Tom Turpin, Entomology professor at Penn State. “So, reaching an ecological balance that will attract pollinators and keep pests at bay is necessary is a delicate dance.”
Wright-Patterson is answering the presidential mandate to reach that balance by actively attracting pollinators to increase seed production. For now, it seems that the bees are well on their way to achieve that goal.
Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.