Watching bees at work around Greater Boston
By Jessica Lau
The observation beehive, a project of the Harvard Undergraduate Beekeepers, opens on April 18 and is on display through the summer. It looks like a window set perpendicular to the wall, with a transparent plastic tube linking the hive to the outdoors. Visitors can try to identify female worker bees carrying out various duties, like foraging, constructing or guarding cells, or converting nectar, or look for the colony’s queen; she’s usually bigger than the male drones, and has been marked with a dot of paint by the beekeepers. Look for “tail-waggling” bees at the bottom of the hive, says Greg Morrow, a technical manager of multimedia projects at Harvard who advises the student group. The showy “figure-eight dance” is how a foraging bee communicates her discovery of new flowers, he explains: the longer she performs, the more bees she’ll recruit to go raid nearby treasure troves of pollen and nectar.
Even within Greater Boston’s dense urban environment, opportunities exist to watch bees work and learn not only about their essential contributions to food production, but about the practicalities of beekeeping as well. Honeybees are a focus at the museum, at the Harvard Square shop Follow the Honey, and at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, in Lincoln, which produces and sells honey from its own hives and offers beekeeping classes and programs. Lesser-known but equally important native bee species are at the center of innovative endeavors at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum and at nonprofit Groundwork Somerville’s urban South Street Farm.