Annual Honey Extraction: ’Comb and Get It!

On Friday, July 14, Evan Sugden organized his annual honey extracting event at the UW Ceramics Lab, just north of the UW Farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Evan, who teaches “Bees, Beekeeping and Pollination” (ESRM491D) during the summer, says the course hives can produce several hundred pounds of honey, and this year’s bees delivered 450 pounds!

The bees make honey early in the season as Himalayan blackberry blooms, and then they finish the summer as research subjects for the science-based class (up to five bee research projects are run simultaneously). Extraction of the honey, the first harvest, marks the transition of the function of the hives. The second harvest comes with the presentation of research results on the last day of class, August 17, and the public is invited. Students help in the honey harvest, and all the proceeds benefit the beekeeping course and program as part of the UW Farm.

Update: As of August 16, the honey is now bottled and ready to go! The student marketing team has arranged a tabling event and pick-up time for this Friday, August 18, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on the UW Quad, and you can place your order online (payment at pick up accepted by cash or check). If this pick-up time does not work for your schedule, there will be future events. They acknowledge that distribution is a challenge, but with a little patience you’ll be able to get your delicious UW honey, and maybe also a UW Farm-etched beverage glass. Thank you for your support!

Photos © Evan Sugden and Will Peterman.


SEFS Hosts Observable Beehive for the Summer

On Tuesday, July 19, Alison Morrow from King 5 News brought a film crew to shoot some footage of the glass-enclosed observable beehive that we’re hosting this summer as part of the popular course, “Bees, Beekeeping and Pollination” (ESRM 491D for this quarter).

Evan estimates the hive in Winkenwerder is now home to some 4,000 bees.

Evan estimates the hive in Winkenwerder is now home to some 4,000 bees.

The course’s instructor, Evan Sugden, has been teaching the class for years through the Department of Biology, but construction of the new Life Sciences Building forced him and his bees out of their usual home at the Biology Greenhouse. So in addition to relocating six hives to neighborhood backyards around the area, including in Wedgewood and Madison Valley, Evan was able to move the course to a classroom in Winkenwerder Hall to keep the course running.

The observable hive, which has a vent to the outside, is fully safe and secure—for anyone worried about a bee allergy—and provides a wonderful teaching tool for students.

Watch the great segment on King 5, “Homeless honey bees find new home in UW science building,” which includes shots from the classroom and out at one of the neighborhood hives!

Photos © SEFS.

Evan Sugden

Evan Sugden and the observable beehive.

The Buzz is Back!

Not since the 1990s had the buzz of the white-bottomed Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentalis) been heard in Washington State. But last week at a park in Brier, just northeast of Seattle, a group of bee enthusiasts and biologists from the University of Washington documented the first official, confirmed B. occidentalis sighting in two decades!

Western Bumble Bee

Will Peterman snapped this unmistakable photo of a Western Bumble Bee with its telltake white rump.

Among the bee hunters that afternoon was Lisa Hannon, an NSF Graduate Fellow with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences who’s currently researching how landscape factors and farmer practices impact parasitoid wasp communities (important for integrated pest management). Hannon had received a call a couple weeks ago from Will Peterman, a writer, photographer and bee expert in Seattle, to join him in trying to spot a Western Bumble Bee.

Peterman was following up on a year-old possible sighting that a local homeowner had logged with the Xerces Society as part of a citizen science initiative. Hannon’s lab mate, Hillary Burgess, was working on her Master’s at the time, and she was involved in that initial sighting. As part of her thesis project, “Local and Landscape-Level Influences of Bee Abundance and Diversity in Residential Gardens,” Burgess worked with landowners across King and Snohomish counties to keep detailed visitation logs regarding the pollinators visiting their gardens. The homeowner who spotted the bees was collecting survey data for her.

Now it was time to see if the bees were still there.

“On the day I searched, we hit pay dirt after four hours of scouring blackberry brambles,” says Hannon. They took photos of two or three queen bees, and then a second group of UW students returned on Sunday and reconfirmed at least two queen bees. This discovery has stoked hopes among bee lovers and biologists that the species, which is a crucial pollinator for many plants, might be making a comeback in the area (the Seattle Times ran a story about the exciting finding on July 14, as did an NPR program in California on July 18).

Lisa Hannon

Lisa Hannon doing field work in Costa Rica.

B. occidentalis was once one of the most common bumble bees found on the West Coast, says Hannon, with a range extending from Alaska down to California, and east to the Rocky Mountains. The Xerces Society—a nonprofit that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat—considers this native species imperiled due to scattered populations and steep declines, among other factors. Currently, remnant populations can be found in the northern or eastern-most areas of their historical range, but colonies from southern British Columbia to central California are almost nonexistent.

Also along for the bee-spotting adventure was Evan Sugden, an adjunct professor with the UW Department of Biology, as well as several UW graduate students and a couple undergrads who were taking Sugden’s summer bee-keeping course.

“Normally, I chase bees and wasps in high mountain Costa Rican coffee farms and cloud forests,” says Hannon, “so it was a real treat to be able to work close to home!”

Photos: Western Bumble Bee © Will Peterman; Lisa Hannon in Costa Rica © Lisa Hannon.