The Hack Manhattan apiary is located on the Rat Park roof (accessible by HM members). The apiary is separated into two sections:
- Apiary South
- Apiary North
Apiary South is our older apiary and where we raise social bees, commonly called honey bees. They are contained in the white box to the left of the garden as you are facing south. The bees are well behaved as long as they don't feel threatened. But if you do something they don't approve of they will get in your face to let you know about it. If you don't heed the warning they may escalate the situation making the ultimate sacrifice by stinging you. A honey bees are reluctant to sting as she has a barbed stinger which is pulled from her body, resulting in her death, and remains in your skin where it continues to inject venom. This is counterproductive for the bee as she is all about perpetuating the hive and she can't do that is she is dead. When a bee stings it emits pheromones that communicate to other guard bees that the hive is under attack and excites them to mount a defense which can result in many more stings. You dont want to get stung as after a day or so of burning you will suffer several days of intense itching and could go into anaphalactic shock. A good way to annoy the bees is to stand in front of the hive in their flight path. So don't do that.
A honey bee hive is a superorganism. Unlike humans, all hive members work for the benefit of their society. Some tend the nursery, some gather food, others stand guard duty, The queen - there is generally only one per hive - lays 1000 - 3000 eggs a day. And the drones (males) just hang around eating and drinking until a new queen from another hive goes out on her nuptial flight when they get all excited.
Honey bees pollinate crops and flowers, and they produce honey which is consumed by humans. Commercial apiaries truck their hives around the country and rent them to farmers to pollinate their crops then extract the honey the bees made in the process and cash in again by selling it.
Stephen is the primary social bee apiarist. If you want to see the social bees you should talk with him.
Solitary bees are raised at the recently established Apiary North. They don't have a colony structure where each bee has a specific job. Each female solitary bee is a queen bee and a worker bee rolled into one. She constructs a nest, provisions it with food, and then lays an egg in it. After sealing off that cell she gathers more food, lays another egg, caps the egg, and iterates this behavior until the nest is full.
Our solitary bee hive is the small, unpainted cedar house-like structure attached to the back railing near the flower baskets. Early in spring mason bees will begin to lay their eggs in the holes you see in the face of the hive. Once the hole is filled with egg cells a mud cap is placed in its end. In the fall leafcutter bees may lay their eggs in any open holes and seal them off with pieces of plant leaves they cut from nearby vegetation. The eggs of each specie will hatch into larvae which will grow until they have consumed all the food in their cell then they will metamorphose into pupae which will continue to develop over the winter to emerge as adults in the early spring.
Solitary bees make smaller nests but in terms of pollinating power each solitary bee is said to be worth 300 honey bees. But they don't make honey so their only use to humans is their tremendous pollinating power.
These are very docile bees. You are unlikely to stung by a solitary bee unless you are crushing it.
Charlie is the primary solitary bee apiarist.
2017 Season Summary
We got a late start this year and had some bad luck with the weather so consequently don’t have a lot of pupae to start off with next year.
It looked like things were going well with numerous holes being visited and capped off. Then we got some extended rain and one whole row of caps disintegrated. Perhaps there was some predation by birds or other insects going on as well. Once it got down to freezing we opened the hive to prepare any remaining pupae for overwintering and only found two larvae that were inadvertently killed while trying to get them out of their tubes. And the five mud-capped tubes at the bottom of the hive … from the reference material it looks like they were probably filled by a wasp.
We are not giving up yet. From our experience this year it appears that there are better ways of providing nesting holes. So, we will be building three PVC pipe hives over the winter. They will be filled with ~25 cardboard tubes each, with single use straw-like liners that will allow us to collect pupae at the end of the season without injury. The hives will be set out in late winter or early fall to give the first mason bees a chance to populate them. In late summer the tube inserts will be switched to provide suitable sized holes for leafcutter bees. And we have wildflower seeds to sow so that we hopefully will have some flowers around that they will like.