Beekeeping society grapples with tough winter for AU bees

Beekeeping society grapples with tough winter for AU bees

Over 90 percent of AU Beekeeping Society’s bees died this winter.

There are about 20,000 bees left, AUBS Secretary Samantha Kenny said. The beekeeping society started the season with 240,000 bees in four hives, according to Vice President Lauren Dryburgh.

“The polar vortex really was devastating for us,” Dryburgh said.

Each hive will have about 100,000 bees in the summer, but only 20,000 bees will survive in each hive during the winter, Kenny said.

If all four hives had survived, AUBS would have about 60,000 bees over the winter, she said.

Three out of four hives died, including the society’s largest and oldest, Dryburgh said.

AUBS took precautions to keep the bees warm through the winter, but the organization did not expect extreme weather.

This is not the first time AUBS has lost hives. According to Kenny, it’s common for new beekeepers to lose hives over winter.

“We lost two or three hives [last winter] as well,” said Kenny.

To re-populate the lost hives, AUBS orders “packages” of bees. These packages are boxes that hold three pounds of bees that are ready to be transferred into new hives. Each package costs around $90, Dryburgh said.

“We’ve populated hives successfully before,” Kenny said. “I would be surprised if they didn’t catch to the hive [this year].”

If the bees successfully populate the hives, Kenny estimates there can be up to 400,000 bees at AU in one summer.

“Bees are kind of the unsung hero of everyone,” Kenny said. “I think it’s really important for a community like AU, who really thinks big picture, to think how the small things can affect the big things.”

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