Wednesday, October 9, 2019

UCA Entomology

I was honored to be invited to speak about bees and beekeeping to the entomology class at the University of Central Arkansas. We discussed the development of modern beekeeping from its early roots as a tradition of honey hunting. We looked at the evolution of bee hives from clay hives and woven skeps to hollow log “bee gums.” We observed the traditional tree-mounted cylindrical hives of Africa, the transitional Kenyan top bar hives, and finally the modern Langstroth hives. We also viewed the horizontal hives of eastern Europe and the vertical top bar hive, the Warre hive.

Following the classroom session, the students travelled to explore my nearby pollinator garden and bee hives. Pollinator gardens are any planting that provides flowering plants producing nectar and pollen. These gardens also include water, protective vegetative cover, and insect nesting spaces. Anyone planning a pollinator garden should restrict the use of pesticides. Flowering plants are chosen that bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Bare ground provides nesting places for solitary bees, which largely nest underground. The entomology students collected insects from the pollinator garden, water garden, composters, and vitex trees. They observed orb spiders also gathering flying insects that ventured into their expansive webs. Students dug ant lion larvae from cone-shaped lairs in sandy soil. Compost barrels contained plenty of the efficient decomposers, black soldier fly larvae, and earwigs and various other insects were plentiful. Blue orchard bee nesting tubes showed evidence of usage by these and other native pollinators. Bare soil under oak trees revealed inch-wide holes where cicadas emerged as adults following years underground.

The students examined bee hives with colonies transitioning from summer to fall. Queen bees were laying eggs, and the students observed all stages of brood. Drones were few, as colony-wide reproduction by swarming has virtually ended for the year. Hives were heavy with ample stores of earthy fall honey. Today’s photo by UCA professor, Dr. David Dussourd: I examine bee hives with entomology students.