Honeybees descend on campus as cold weather nears

by Chelsea Radler

Fifty-thousand honeybees live in a small observational hive in a biology laboratory in Lisner Hall. The bees have been buzzing around because of the cold.
Media Credit: Michelle Rattinger
Fifty-thousand honeybees live in a small observational hive in a biology laboratory in Lisner Hall. The bees have been buzzing around because of the cold.

If you've seen a recent buzz around campus, you're not alone.

The 500,000 bees housed on the roof of Lisner Hall are more active now as they prepare for colder winter months, assistant professor of biology Hartmut Doebel said.

Doebel said he “certainly noticed” a larger bee population near F Street and Kogan Plaza since the installation of the hives last summer, but that the insects don’t pose a threat to students.

Bees can fly up to four miles from their hive looking for nectar and sometimes mistake human food for their own, Doebel said.

“While there might be an increased presence of bees on campus due to the Lisner Hall installation, the University has not received any bee-related complaints from students,” University spokeswoman Courtney Bowe said.

Bees feel threatened when cornered or enclosed. Students should avoid blowing the bees away as the blast of hot air can make them aggressive, Doebel said.

He recommended swatting the insects instead.

“From a biological sense, it doesn’t make any sense to go out and start stinging,” Doebel said. “They want to leave us alone, too.”

Doebel manages the hives and organizes undergraduate student research around the bees.

“I [don’t] stop getting inquiries about students who want to work with the bees. It’s just amazing,” he said. “You will be amazed how docile they are.”

Four of the eight large rooftop hives, which can each house up to 100,000 bees, will be harvested for honey to be used at local eatery Founding Farmers.

The restaurant covers the cost of maintaining the hives and provides a small stipend for beekeepers.

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