Montshire Profile

Honeybees, April 2014

Current location 
Montshire's observation beehive is on the second floor, at the top of the north stairs. 

When did the Bees first come to the Montshire?  
The bees have been part of the Montshire since the Museum was at its first location, in a former bowling alley in Hanover. At that time the bees exited the Museum building just a few feet above the ground—but not in a location where visitors could get stung. 

Why did the Montshire create this exhibit?
The Montshire's observation hive is a classic example of a great natural history exhibit. It allows our visitors to observe the constantly changing lives of real creatures in a way that would be difficult in the wild.

Did you know?  
The honeybees usually swarm several times each summer, when their growing population outpaces the hive's capacity. Occasionally, they swarm late in the fall without enough time to hatch a new queen. Although a swarm looks intimidating, the bees are quite passive and unlikely to sting when swarming.

The bees are given a thin syrup of table sugar and water in the spring to simulate nectar and get them excited to forage. Later in the fall, or if their population grows too quickly and they eat their reserves, we feed them a much thicker syrup to bolster their honey stockpile.

Commercially-bred bees come in races or breeds usually named after their origin—Italians, Siberians, Russians, Carniolas—or after a breeder's whims—Buckfast and Starline. Wilbanks, a commercial breeder in Georgia, is the largest producer of Italian queen bees. After discovering in 2005 that our colony was queen-less, the Museum purchased a Wilbanks Italian queen. Her descendants have done well to the present day. Our queen is now local Italian cross, with local bees for male ancestors.

Favorite stories?  
Joan Waltermire, a member of Montshire’s exhibits staff, remembers the first time she put her hand into a swarm of bees and felt their warmth and delicate movement.

Have you tried this?   
Looking at the larvae in the hive is a great activity. We keep a flashlight so that visitors can study the hive. When the bees are foraging, look for the yellow pollen on the returning bees' pollen sacks.