The off-season buzz for Discovery Place Nature beekeeping is all about upkeep

Discovery Place Nature

In summer 2018, the community celebrated alongside Discovery Place Nature as the Museum harvested its first batch of honey from the bees living in constructed hives there. That initial harvest resulted in 50 pounds of honey, which quickly sold out as Museum visitors jumped at the chance to share in the moment and get a taste of fresh, local honey.

When it comes to bees, most people are quick to affiliate the insect with honey production, but Museum Director Marvin Bouknight knows these unique and crafty creatures produce more than just honey. A certified beekeeper, Bouknight helps care for Discovery Place Nature’s three hives (which house up to 60,000 bees each!) as well as the five hives he maintains at his home.

“Most people don’t get into beekeeping because they think they’ll make money off the honey,” he explains. “There’s too much work and care that goes into it. You do it because it is truly awe-inspiring to be that close to literally thousands of bees and watch them work together to not only survive but thrive.”

The work includes a lot of equipment upkeep in the bees’ off seasons – fall and winter. Discovery Place Nature staff vigorously clean the hives during these times of year to prepare for the next season of hive growth and honey production, which begins in early spring.

Like honey, other remnants produced by the bees are also sticky and cause for a very gooey, hands-on clean-up process.

“Bees produce honey, but they also produce wax and a sticky substance called propolis, which is harvested tree sap and other sticky substances used to seal openings in bee hives,” Bouknight says. “In order to clean it, you have to use a lot of elbow grease and apply heat as you feverishly scrape.”

That process, he says, usually results in a smattering of sticky stuff all over the lucky person doing the cleaning as well as any surrounding bystanders. The wax and the propolis are just part of the world of beekeeping, Bouknight notes.

Bees produce the wax to bridge open spaces within their hives and they produce propolis as a sealant to close off smaller openings in the hive. The propolis also helps with the hygiene of the hive. In fact, its medicinal qualities are recognized in the human world as well, thanks to the substance’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

“To spend time with these bees and to really understand how intricate and collaborative their processes are – it is just such an educational experience,” Bouknight says. “We can all learn a lot from bees, including how to work together.”

Immerse yourself in the world of bees at Discovery Place Nature, where everyone can get an up-close look as the honeybees travel between their hives located just outside the Museum building into the Naturalist Lab at the Museum where their special observation hive teaches you more about these amazing insects.

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