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Boise State Beehives Buzz On

Bee on a pane of glass with beekeeper in the background

So much of our life has changed in the past several months, but if we peer beneath the surface of our daily grind, we’ll find some things that have remained constant and unchanging. Like pizza delivery. And nature. 

This time of year, flowers start bursting open, the warm sun intensifies, and bee hives start buzzing with activity after the long winter months. That means the Boise State Bee Team is usually busy getting their rooftop apiary – that’s right, Boise State has an apiary, or bee farm, on the roof of the Student Union Building – up and running for the summer. And because nature, well, is what it is, those hives still need care and maintenance. 

“This pandemic hit at an interesting time for us because this is the point where our season would usually start,” said Josh Schreiter, the Bee Team’s hive manager. He lives in Boise, so he’s been able to continue caring for the hives as the bees’ spring activity picks up. 

In the past few weeks, he’s added an additional hive to the apiary and is busy feeding the bees. “Right now, I am making a 1:1 ratio of sugar water. It’s particularly important in the spring when they’re coming out of winter and have possibly eaten through their honey stores. In a little bucket outside the hives, I’m also feeding a pollen powder. This is a protein source for the bees and helps the hive raise eggs and brood.”

As the hives come out of winter, if a colony has remained healthy, it will soon become overcrowded and will need to split. When this happens without intervention, it’s a swarm. And spring is the most common time for swarming. One of the Bee Team’s hives did weather our Idaho winter well and is looking strong. This means Josh is going to have to be proactive and split the colony before the bees swarm, adding a third hive to the rooftop.

Beekeeper handling a bee hive

“In the spring, I go up for inspections about every two weeks. Depending on the weather, I may get up there a couple times a week but that would be just to fill their sugar water feeders,” said Josh. “There’s a lot of clean up to do in the spring so when I inspect, I typically spend 2-3 hours up there”

This year, with business not as usual, Josh has one more task added to the mix. “One of the main goals of our group is educating young people about pollinators and their importance to the environment,” he said. “The pandemic has kind of stripped us of our greatest tool: hands-on learning. But the bees still have needs during the pandemic, so my plan going forward is to record my interactions with the bees and give a detailed account of my inspections.” 

“I’m lucky enough to live with another beekeeper, so the two of us will be creating a video for the Bee Teamers, as well as new beekeepers in the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club and the Foothills Learning Center.” 

The Boise State Bee Team has 98 members, so Josh has been doing his best to keep the group updated on how the bees are doing. The team is missing out on helping with the new hives, opportunities to educate, and being able to sell their honey and beeswax products in the Bronco Shop. They’ve had to rethink their plans for an “education vacation” they take each summer. But like nature, the Bee Team moves forward, waiting for the day they can rejoin Josh and the bees on the rooftop.

Beekeeper handling a beehive