Shawnee News-Star Blog Sunday July 2 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg What do you think of when you hear beehive?   Hair teased and piled up into a cone shape on the top of a head (also known as the B-52 hairdo?)   No?   What about a human made enclosure for a colony of bees?   If the bees [...]

Shawnee News-Star Blog Sunday July 2 2017

The Hive at Kew Gardens
Photo by Sally Swift, Stradishall, Suffolh, England

Becky Emerson Carlberg

What do you think of when you hear beehive?   Hair teased and piled up into a cone shape on the top of a head (also known as the B-52 hairdo?)   No?   What about a human made enclosure for a colony of bees?   If the bees are holed up in tree cavities, rocks or caves, they then live in nests that are used for years.   Man has been keeping bees in hives for at least 5,000 years.   Pictures of a people blowing smoke into hives to calm the bees down as their honeycomb is being removed have been found on the walls of the Egyptian Sun Temple Nyuserri Ini.   This dates from the 5th Dynasty (earlier than 2400BC).    Archaeological evidence indicates a thriving honey industry in Israel about 4,000 years ago. In one excavation, 150 clay and straw hives were found, all lined up in neat rows.

Four types of hives are currently housing bees across the world.  Mud, dung and straw hives are still used in Egypt; forerunners were clay tile tubes stacked to offer cool shade and make it easier for smoking one end to drive the bees out the other.   European Skeps are baskets of woven straw or grass formed in the traditional beehive shape.   Diseases and difficulty in removing the honey are drawbacks.   Bee gums are hollowed sections of trees. In the US the black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) was often used, thus the name gum.   As with the skeps, bees are often killed before the honey is harvested from bee gums.   The modern hives are the most humane.   With movable frames and combs, the beekeeper can inspect for diseases and split colonies.   The most common hive is the Langstroth.   Inside the bee boxes are frames that hold beeswax honeycomb and the frames can be spun to remove the honey and reused by the bees.

Inside the Hive looking up.
Photo by Sally Swift, Stradishall, Suffolk, England

The beehive symbol has been popular since Roman times.   The beehive represents industry and co-operation with both the Masons and Mormons.   The beehive is the Utah state emblem.   The provisional government before Utah actually became a state was called the State of Deseret which also used the beehive symbol.   Deseret means honeybee in the Book of Mormon.   Bees became citizens of present day Utah after being brought into the new state from a Mormon colony in San Bernadino California.

Kew Gardens in southwest London houses the world's largest collection of plants and fungi, well over 40,000 species. Seven hundred and fifty people work at Kew along with 350 scientists, students and researchers.   On the 326 acres are gardens, glasshouses, and 40 historical buildings; the newest structure to arrive is THE HIVE.

Standing at over 50 feet tall (17 meters), the hive is made of 170,000 aluminum parts and 1,000 LED lights. First built at the 2015 Universal Exposition in Milan, Italy, it took 4 months to be reconstructed at Kew in 2016.   A soundscape is linked by sensors to a real working beehive on the Kew grounds. Wildflower meadows and hedges surround THE HIVE. To get to it, you walk along pathways through pollinator-friendly plants and native hedgerows"both habitats are in serious decline. Ninety seven percent of the wildflower meadows have vanished in the United Kingdom since the 1930's.     It has had a huge impact on the food produced and eaten.

THE HIVE has two entrances.   The ground level entrance is into the activity area where one learns about the world of the honeybee and pollinators.   Become one with the bees.   You bite the stick, dexterously insert it into the conductor, put fingers in your ears and close your eyes and feel the vibrations travel through your skull.   It is as close as a human can come to listening to the vibrational messages of honeybees.   The virgin want-to-be queens send out strong quacks, hungry bees beg like dogs, and to hear the waggle dance that shows the location of food are all amazing experiences.

The upstairs is wired to the working hive proper.   You stand on see-through (I would have to give this some thought) hexagonal tiles and watch the flashing pink LED lights fire every time a bee moves within the working hive.   A soundtrack of humming accompanies the light show, and pushing different buttons link again to the vibrational messages, but now this is real time in the honeybee colony on the garden grounds. While THE HIVE focuses on the honeybee, there are at least 250 other species of bees in the United Kingdom, many in serious trouble.   We have over 4,000 species of native bees in North America, with a large percentage also facing extinction.

A rousing rendition of Gabriel Faure's Requiem is playing on KUCO as I wrote this.   Fitting, since my coveted strip of Coreopsis was mowed by the county last Monday.   I totally understand taking down the thick stands of Johnson grass that grow rampant, but are you unable to maneuver your mowing deck around the very obvious stands of wildflowers?   To make matters worse, the other side of the fence was just cut for hay.   These two actions have left the pollinators what exactly?   They can't go to a store and buy food, but those invaluable pollinators are responsible for a third of all the food you eat.   The ugly dry brown sides of the road now proudly display shiny beer cans, glass bottles, shreds of plastic and paper.   Ha.   No one ever bothers our trash.

The Dastardly Coreopsis

Everybody has a responsibility to care for wherever they live and their Earth.   It provides the air we must breathe, water we must drink, food we must eat and shelter we must have.   Guess what?   Without the plants, we'd have nothing.

Did you know there are actually places that consider old trees ancient monuments and go to great lengths to protect their wildflower populations?   There's been a wake-up call in the British Isles. Will it ever happen in Oklahoma?