State Apiary Opens at Agricultural Learning Center

From left: MDAR commissioner John Lebeaux, state apiary inspector Kim Skyrm and Daniel Sieger, state assistant secretary for the environment.
From left: MDAR commissioner John Lebeaux, state apiary inspector Kim Skyrm and Daniel Sieger, state assistant secretary for the environment.

A new state apiary to be used for education, outreach demonstrations and research related to agricultural sustainability, pollination, honeybee health and hive management was opened June 20 at the campus’ Agricultural Learning Center.

The event, which kicked off Massachusetts Pollinator Week, as declared by Gov. Charlie Baker, was attended by John Lebeaux, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), Daniel Sieger, state assistant secretary for the environment, and state apiary inspector Kim Skyrm. They were joined on site by Steve Goodwin, dean of the College of Natural Science, Jody Jellison, director of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, other campus officials and students.

MDAR, in collaboration with the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, created the apiary consisting of 12 honeybee hives within an 80-foot by 30-foot plot adjacent to the UMass Pollinator Conservation Project. The apiary is surrounded by a solar-powered electric fence to deter animals and serve as a safety barrier for visitors. It consists of six wooden stands, capable of holding five hives each. partitioned into two horizontal rows. The apiary will also be used by the UMass Beekeeping Club and for hives maintained for campus beekeeping courses.

“This is a showcase for honeybees in the Commonwealth and a great demonstration for how to maintain healthy hives in western Massachusetts,” said Skyrm.  Students built the apiary, installed the fence and solar charger to ward off bears. This summer, four student interns are working to maintain healthy hives and harvest the honey.

The apiary is situated near a stream and adjacent to a new pollinator forest and near the pollinator garden funded by the Massachusetts State Grange under the direction of Stephen Herbert. A variety of hives are on site, including several Langstroth hives, a top bar hive and a handicapped-accessible hive.

The apiary is also considered a critical component of the Stockbridge School’s student farm pollinator habitat conservation project. The apiary will provide valuable pollination services to the farm’s cultivated acreage of crops, trees and wildflowers. Given the ability to do live, in-hive demonstrations onsite, the apiary will also be an important tool for providing outreach education to farmers, land managers, beekeepers and the public on topics related to honeybees and agriculture. The apiary will be maintained through a collaborative effort of the MDAR Apiary Program inspectors, students and faculty members on campus.

“This is an exciting collaboration for the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst,” said Frank Mangan, director of the Agricultural Learning Center. “Maintaining a state apiary with MDAR provides our students, growers and beekeepers with preventive learning tools.”

During the event, biology professor Lynn Adler described her current research on bumblebees and honeybees that examines chemicals produced in plants and how they are reducing disease loads in bees.

The opening also allowed visitors to tour other additions at the ALC such as the pollinator habitat garden and a new greenhouse funded by the National Science Foundation.

From left: MDAR commissioner John Lebeaux, state apiary inspector Kim Skyrm and Daniel Sieger, state assistant secretary for the environment.

 

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