Photo credit: Erin McSwain

Photo credit: Erin McSwain

With the population increase of the Varroa mite and associated viruses, the global bee population is plummeting. One UWG professor is making a buzz about the importance of bees and bee research.

“It was mostly for fun when I started handling bees,” said Professor of Biology Dr. Gregory Payne. “I’m an entomologist, and when I was at Clemson University, I helped keep bees for our entomology club. I haven’t done it since then, but I thought it would be nice if UWG could have some research done with the bees.”

UWG Risk Management gave Payne permission to plant 10 hives next to UWG’s community garden. He plans to involve students with the project at undetermined future date. Payne wants to involve the biology club to teach them research methods and studies.

“The importance of bees is very great,” said Alabama Master Beekeeper and Georgia Master Gardener Marilynn Parker. “This issue of the bee population is a problem that must be dealt with.”

Parker has worked with bees for over 50 years. Many techniques for beekeeping have changed during that time; however, Parker’s knowledge has not made that an issue. She can explain anything bee-related, from the structure of the hive to the lifespan of each type of bee in the colony.

Parker helped Payne when he had a tough time keeping the bees. They plan to use the bees for research and to involve students with bee education. The purpose of the bee research is to find out what is affecting them and to hopefully find solutions to the decrease in bee population.

“There have not been any major complications,” said Payne. “About two weeks ago Ms. Parker and I came out to the bee hives. It was going to be just a daily thing where we check the hives. However, it turned into a five and a half hour process. I would tell anyone who is interested in becoming a beekeeper that it takes a lot of money, time and patience, but the outcome is very rewarding.”

Payne mentioned in one week, he used about 50 bags of sugar for the bees’ sugar water.

“We currently have two hives that are on a one year jump in front of the others,” said Payne. “There were four originally, but after the winter, we had to combine two colonies. In about three weeks, we are going to pull the sugar water from the eight new hives. The sugar water helps the bees from having to work too hard, and they can focus on sustaining and growing the colony.

“I cannot stress this enough, but Ms. Parker is the reason for the success,” continued Payne. “With her help, we are able to track bee feeding techniques and bee colony behaviors.”

Parker’s knowledge on bees has given her the certification of Master Beekeeper, which Payne said is equivalent to receiving a graduate degree.

Payne and Parker plan to continue working with the hives. A queen bee can reign for almost five years, meaning Parker and Payne can continue research on one colony for a few more years. When the time comes for harvesting the honey from the hives, Payne plans to sell honey to raise funds for the Biology Club and also to give money back into the research.

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