The Wildflower Center has a new asset in its quest to demonstrate the best of Texas wildflowers and native plants -- two on-site bee hives. Bees, like butterflies and hummingbirds, are pollinators essential to plant reproduction.
Horticulturalist Deryn Davidson established the bee colonies on site because of her interest in pollinators, after joining the Williamson County Area Beekeepers Association last year to learn more about the art and science of caring for these essential creatures. Once prepared, she proceeded to create the first bee colony in April 2009.
For the first colony, Davidson purchased a three-frame nuc box (a partial hive) from an apiary. This colony was already established in its social structure. A second hive was established by transplanting a colony of wild bees.
First-time beekeepers usually choose the mail order route, because transplanting wild bees is more challenging, but Davidson said that transportation of the colony was very successful. The queen bee made it through the trip, which is a critical factor in colony success. "I felt really lucky that the queen did not get left behind or killed in the move," she said.
Honey bees are non-native, but have long been established at the Wildflower Center. They are docile, but the hives are located well away from public areas.
There is a preservation aspect to Davidson's project because honey bees, mainly those used for pollinating commercial crops have been subject to colony collapse disorder and other problems. A U.S. Department of Agriculture survey this year showed a 29 percent decline in honeybee population in the past year, much of it due to colony collapse disorder, which causes adult bees to desert their broods for no apparent reason. Pesticide drift and parasitic mites are also reducing the bee population.The hives at the Wildflower Center are thriving. Davidson visits them frequently and says she feels calm when around them.
"And the honey is a nice perk," she added.