If you’ve been in College in the last few weeks, you may have noticed a peculiar buzzing filling the air as Trinity’s very own bees have been busy foraging all over College and beyond. This resulted in the very first official jar of Trinity honey being harvested on July 28. The bees have already attracted much attention, as on July 2 they swarmed on the Gym windows facing Pearse Street. Luckily they were soon safely relocated with the help of the fire brigade.
The swarm caused quite a stir and for good reason. Swarming is the process in which new honey bee colonies form. When an existing colony grows to a size beyond the existing hive’s capacity, the queen bee leaves the colony with a sizeable proportion of worker bees – enough to sustain a new colony. New virgin queens then emerge in the old hive, the strongest surviving to lead. This may provide Trinity with another queen in need of a name, the first queen having been crowned Queen Medb.
The hives were installed as part of the College’s pollinator plan, and can be followed on Campusbuzz.blog for the latest news. The hives been part research projects to date. One of these involved pollen being trapped as the worker bees entered the hive. This will then be analysed, and compared to eight other such apiary sites in the city and its outskirts. By carrying out this type of research, pollinator experts can understand foraging preferences for bees and encourage the integration of certain beneficial plants into city planning. The second research project on the bees is an international study lead by a research team from the University of Western Australia. Their work is investigating the use of the venom in the honeybee’s sting as a possible ingredient in treatments for breast cancer.
Professor in Botany, Jane Stout, has been overseeing much of this bee-related activity, all while working on the National Pollinator Plan, which was launched in April. The National Pollinator Plan hopes to aid ecological initiatives and promote collective responsibility and action towards protecting our pollinators and the services they provide us with.
The honey itself is not for actually for sale but will be used for analysis and research purposes. After the honey harvest, Queen Medb and her workers should now be getting ready for winter, which means storing as much food up as possible while the flowers still are in bloom. As autumn comes to a close and students return back to lectures, we’ll see the bees slowly retire for winter to live off their honey reserves. This is also when they’ll need to be closely inspected for the deadly varroa mite, which has wiped out vast numbers of hives in the last decade. However, under the watchful gaze of specialists like Jane Stout, it seems like Queen Medb and her daughters are in safe hands.