A Bug's Life: Massachusetts' First Bee Apiary in Amherst

It’s easy to get frustrated at the bumbling bees zooming around your lunch.  But it’s hard to remember that the populations of these bugs are dropping- and we need them. These little critters are a crucial part of the ecosystem and the wellness of sustainability.

The honeybee populations have decreased about 30 percent in the past year throughout the United States, and have steadily gone down since the first major drop in 2006. UMass, as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Greenpeace Conservation company link this mass decline to pesticides.

“Tons of crops use pesticides, then end up realizing how much they need bees to help their crops, so it’s a vicious circle,” said Mackay Eyster, UMass Beekeeping Club Treasurer. “These chemicals are really harmful to the bees, and it’s eliminating mass numbers of them.”

The first Massachusetts state bee apiary opened this past summer through the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture in collaboration with Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

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Located within the UMass Agricultural Learning Center, the apiary contains 12 hives and is surrounded by a solar-powered electric fence. It is adjacent to the UMass Pollinators Conservation Project, a plan organized to work towards sustaining and protecting bees and the hard work they do.

“The hives are setup to mimic what bees are exposed to in the wild, and it’s really close to home” said said State Chief Apiary inspector Kim Skyrm.

Skyrm explains that removable frames allows beekeepers to extract honey from the hives without causing any damage.

“They’re able to live and extract their pollen the best they can,” she said.

Honeybees also need a specific climate to thrive in, and with the services that the apiary provides, this problem has been aided.

“Bees need to squeeze their little bodies through a small space, which is five-eighths of an inch,” said Skyrm. “If it is anymore than that it disrupts the climate of the hive, so we clog it so there isn’t a draft. This helps their development immensely.”

“What we want to do is provide a space where the bees can be protected and thrive, as well as for students to have the chance to learn and do their research,” she added.


Written for the Amherst Wire, UMass.