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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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Relocated beehive seven years strong


A natural beehive found on campus in 2007 was relocayrf and is still part of the UH area’s ecosystem. |  Jenna Frenzel/The Daily Cougar

A natural beehive found on campus in 2007 was relocated and is still part of the UH area’s ecosystem. | Jenna Frenzel/The Daily Cougar

A beehive relocated from the walls of a campus building almost seven years ago has been hard at work maintaining plant life on and near the University ever since, even in the face of declining honeybee populations across the country.

In November 2007, there was a rise in students complaining of bees in the Cullen College of Engineering. Once some of them claimed to have found honey on the walls, an inspection confirmed that there was a fully functioning hive of 100,000 bees in a wall of the building.

In order to allow classes to continue normally while still maintaining the hive, the University hired the services of beekeeper Mike Knuckey to safely remove the hive, maintain it until it was again functioning and then relocate it to a forested area on campus. Knuckey did just that, carefully cutting the honeycomb free, relocating it to an artificial hive box and feeding the colony sugar water until it was producing honey of its own again.

“The bee box has since been relocated back to campus,” Knuckey said. “You can find it near the south end in a wooded area just off of Cullen Boulevard.”

The hive is now out of the way of pedestrians but close enough that bees will still travel to most of campus, pollinating plants.

It just so happens, however, that the original relocation of the hive coincided with the rise of a problem that we are still facing — a sharp drop in the honeybee population.

Engineering professor John Lienhard wrote a blog post two years after the original event, in which he wrote about his memories and how much of an effect bee populations have on plant life.

“The hive that was being saved was essential to keeping our campus beautiful. The flowers and other plant life live and die by their efforts,” Lienhard wrote. “And bees are vanishing all over America. About one-third of our diet is served by bee pollination. Twenty-two states, including ours, have seen average losses of a third of their bees. These losses reach 80 percent in some areas.”

The problem as a whole is being referred to as colony collapse disorder, and researchers are still not entirely sure what the cause is. According to a recent Global Research article, probable causes include pesticides and insecticides, parasitic mites, overharvesting of honey and improper care for bee colonies.

“The USDA report strongly recommends increased collaboration and information sharing between crop growers and beekeepers to implement mutually beneficial best known practices,” said the article regarding potential fixes. “Another viable solution toward increasing bee population (is) implementing programs teaching and training urban residents to become amateur beekeepers.”

The safe relocation of the beehive, in place of its removal or destruction, is an example of a step that can be taken to alleviate the dropping honeybee population.

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