David Hoekstra's experiential learning project came from an idea generated within the community. “Students saw there was a need to give back. If people have ideas for classes, research or programming, I am all about it.” With bees producing a surplus of wildflower honey, Hoekstra decided to donate a portion to the UB Blue Table food pantry. Honey in 4-ounce jars will be gifted to the food pantry and Campus Dining and Shops, and 16-ounce jars will be sold to the community to help fund UB Bees. Read the news story by Tessie Mar.
Published October 13, 2021
About 20 students joined David Hoekstra, clinical assistant professor and UB Bees director, for a honey-jarring event on Sept. 30 in the Student Union.
The honey comes from UB’s own backyard, from hives located between Crofts Hall and Bizer Creek on the North Campus.
The UB Bees project strives to educate the UB and WNY communities about honeybees and beekeeping through lectures, workshops and hands-on experience, and the Sept. 30 event was a partnership between the initiative and Student Engagement.
“What I want to emphasize is that events like this stem from ideas that came from the community,” says Hoekstra, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences. “Students saw there was a need to give back. If people have ideas for classes, research or programming, I am all about it.”
With bees producing a surplus of wildflower honey, Hoekstra decided to donate a portion to the UB Blue Table food pantry. Honey in 4-ounce jars will be gifted to the food pantry and Campus Dining and Shops, and 16-ounce jars will be sold to the community to help fund UB Bees.
“Last year we pulled off about 25 gallons of honey from the six hives, and we have never lost a hive in the winter,” Hoekstra says.
This is particularly impressive, as hive thefts and hive mortality are common for beekeepers, Hoekstra notes. He estimates that nationally, about 40% of managed hives die annually, with that number being even higher this past year. A warm summer this year meant that extra management was needed, and Hoekstra had to requeen two hives that were missing a queen. Hoekstra suspects that his gentle approach and use of sustainable practices have encouraged the hives to thrive.
During the pandemic and over the summer, Hoekstra and electrical engineering student Noah Wichlacz were the only ones caring for the hives.
“I am hoping to do more programming and have students be more involved with them this year,” Hoekstra says.
About 20 students showed up to the event in 145A Student Union to help transfer honey into 4-ounce jars. The process ended an hour earlier than anticipated because of the efficiency of the operation.
Students formed an assembly line-type system, with each person repeatedly performing a single task. The whole room was a-BUZZ with the sound of hands working to package the honey.
At one table, students filled glass jars with honey from large plastic dispensers. At a second, a handful of participants wrote notes on UB Bees-branded gift tags to attach to each jar. The notes added a personal touch and helped advertise UB Bees.
On the far left side of the last table, two students measured and cut twine. Moving up the line, three students tied the string and handwritten notes to the jars of honey before passing them to peers at the very end of the table, who attached honey dippers to all of the jars.
“This was exciting to see people from our campus coming together and doing something for our community. It’s a great way to de-stress and have some time for yourself while giving back,” says Preston Arment, graduate student assistant in Student Engagement.
Hoekstra noted that Arment was instrumental in organizing the collaborative event. Student Engagement purchased bottles and stirrers, and printed labels, he says, while UB Bees donated the honey.
Hoekstra has exciting plans for the bees. He intends to hold a similar event to make lip balm from all the beeswax that has been produced.
People can expect to see Hoekstra tabling at the Student Union to promote sustainability and chat about the bees in the coming weeks. He also anticipates hosting hive tours this fall.
Programming for beekeeping workshops is currently being configured, and Hoekstra is also working to create a one-credit course on beekeeping.
Good job team! From where I can get this? I want to try real honey without any artificial sugar or flavor.
Graduate training and professional development, Immunology and Oncology
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 10:00am to 12:00pm, or by appointment
PhD, Microbiology and Immunology, SUNY Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute Graduate Division
The keepers who met to winterize the hives included UB Bees director David Hoekstra (not pictured); Noah Wichlacz, a UB junior studying electrical engineering (not pictured); and (from left) Matthew Gibbs, a SUNY Buffalo State student; Riley Blasiak, a UB junior studying civil engineering and environmental engineering; and Alex Chimiak, a UB senior studying environmental science.
UB Bees director David Hoekstra, clinical assistant professor of biological sciences, installs a mouse guard to prevent rodents from moving into the hives as the weather grows colder.
Hoekstra holds up a frame of bees — all female, he notes. The story of how bees survive the winter is somewhat ghastly. Hoekstra says that in the fall, female worker bees banish male drones, sometimes literally pulling them out of the hive and leaving them outside to die. Male bees serve no purpose to the colony during winter — since they cannot defend the hive and do not forage for food, take care of the young or clean the hive — so sending them away reduces demand for food at a time when nectar and pollen are scarce, Hoekstra explains.
As humans practice social distancing, honeybees will survive the winter in part by crowding together to help stay warm.
Bees crawl on a grate called a “queen excluder,” which prevents the queen from entering the boxes where excess honey is collected by UB Bees beekeepers. The grates help to keep harvested honey free of eggs or brood, Hoekstra says. The UB Bees project only collects honey during the warmer months, so in the fall, beekeepers remove the grates to allow the queen of each hive to roam wherever she wants.
Rodents love to overwinter inside honeybee hives, where they stay warm and have access to plenty of food, Hoekstra says. To prevent them from entering the hive, beekeepers installed metal rodent guards at the hive entrance.
A screen mesh is installed over the inner cover of the bee hive. This prevents bees from getting out of the hive (and other intruders from getting in), while still allowing air and moisture to flow out.
Pine wood chips are added to the roof of a hive. These provide insulation and help to control moisture during the colder seasons.
Beekeepers wrap the hives with insulation to keep them warm over the winter. From left: Alex Chimiak, David Hoekstra and Matthew Gibbs.
David Hoekstra (left) and Matthew Gibbs finish insulating a hive. As humans across Western New York prepare their homes for winter, beekeepers did the same for the UB Bees’ living quarters. Such measures helped all six of the project’s hives survive the last winter.
Published November 9, 2020