Several rows of cardinal and gold-painted bee hives now sit north of Ames at the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station as interest in bees on the campus is buzzing.
Randall Cass, ISU’s bee extension specialist, says the hives will be the focal point for outreach, demonstrations, and research, plus, they’ll produce honey that will be sold in the ISU book store or Alumni Center.
“This year we’re going to start out small, we’ve only got 20 hives,” Cass says. “We will produce enough honey to make a certain number of bottles, a few hundred bottles, and then the rest, we plan to sell to Dining Services so they can have some local honey that they can use in their baked goods.”
Oats are growing at the research station to serve as a nurse crop for clover, which will provide a source of nectar for the bees. They will also find and pollinate a host of diverse crops grown at the station, including apples, pears, squash and melons.
The population of bees in each hive fluctuates, depending on the time of year. “It starts out in the early spring when they’re coming out of winter with a smaller number, closer to 30- or 40,000 bees,” Cass says. “Then into the summer, it can get as high as 80,000 bees as there’s more flowering plants to forage and they really boost their numbers in order to go out there and collect a lot of nectar to make more honey.”
The first batches of honey should be ready this fall, while ISU undergrads will be able to take a revived class taught by Cass called Bee Biology, Management and Beekeeping.
“Students will have the opportunity to take the class and learn about bees and also how to keep their own bees,” Cass says. “It’s the first time that ISU has offered this class in five years and people are pretty excited to take it. The class is definitely full.”
While students in residence halls aren’t allowed to keep bees, he says four of the hives will be transported to campus this fall for hands-on field demonstrations.