Amherst, MA—June 20, 2016. Governor Charlie Baker declared June 20–26, 2016 as “Massachusetts Pollinator Week.” In support of this declaration, a celebration was held at UMass Amherst’s Agricultural Learning Center (ALC), 911 North Pleasant Street, to open the first state apiary.
John Lebeaux, MDAR Commissioner; Daniel Sieger, Massachusetts Assistant Secretary for the Environment; and Kim Skyrm, State Apiary Inspector, examined full Langstroth bee frames. They were joined on site by Steve Goodwin, Dean of the College of Natural Science; Jody Jellison, Director, Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment; other UMass officials and students to unveil this rich educational resource.
MDAR, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture created this a state apiary consisting of twelve honey bee hives located within an 80-foot by 30-foot plot situated adjacent to the UMass Pollinator Conservation Project. The apiary is surrounded by a solar-powered electric fence (to deter animals and serve as a safety barrier for visitors). It consists of six wooden stands (capable of holding five hives each) partitioned into two horizontal rows. The apiary will also be used by the UMass Beekeeping Club and for hives maintained for UMass beekeeping courses. “This is a showcase for honeybees in the Commonwealth and a great demonstration for how to maintain healthy hives in Western Massachusetts,” said Skyrm. Students built the apiary, installed the fence and solar charger to ward off bears. This summer, four student interns are working to maintain healthy hives and harvest the honey.
The site chosen was deliberate with a stream close by for water, adjacent to a new pollinator forest and near the pollinator garden funded by the Massachusetts State Grange under the direction of Stephen Herbert. A variety of hives are on site including several Langstroth hives, a top bar hive and a handicapped-accessible hive.
The purpose of the apiary is to serve as a vessel for education, outreach demonstrations and research related to agricultural sustainability, pollination, honey bee health and hive management. This apiary is also considered to be a critical component of the Stockbridge School’s student farm pollinator habitat conservation project. The apiary will provide valuable pollination services to the farms cultivated acreage of crops, trees and wildflowers. Given the ability to do live, in-hive demonstrations onsite, this apiary will also be an important tool for providing outreach education to farmers, land managers, beekeepers and the public on topics related to honey bees and agriculture. The apiary will be maintained through a collaborative effort of the MDAR Apiary Program inspectors, students and faculty members on campus.
“This is an exciting collaboration for the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst,” said Frank Mangan, Director of the Agricultural Learning Center. “Maintaining a state apiary with MDAR provides our students, growers and bee keepers with preventive learning tools.” Professor Lynn Adler described her current research on bumblebee and honey bees examining chemicals produced in plants and how they are reducing disease loads in bees. There is lots of excitement and interest in her work across the country.
The opening also allowed visitors to tour other new additions at the ALC such as the Pollinator Habitat Garden and the new Greenhouse (funded by the National Science Foundation) connected to the UMass student farm. Amanda Brown, Lecturer, Stockbridge School of Agriculture, and her students offered tours of their operation. This is the tenth year of the student farm which has grown to earn nationwide respect, being rated the 5th in the country for University student-run farms. This year, they will produce 65,000 pounds of produce and through an astounding 48 crops. The students themselves are the best spokespeople for the year-long effort. Will O’Meara, a student from Connecticut, transferred to UMass Amherst specifically to participate in this student farm. And they have begun to integrate animals into crops, this year chickens and next year, sheep will be found grazing there. Finally, 185 apple trees (Gold rush, Pristine and Enterprise varieties) were planted recently that constitute a new orchard for learning and research purposes.
With a plethora of pollinator plants, UMass bees have found a happy home at the Agricultural Learning Center’s state apiary.