If you’ve ever driven by the KFSM studio on N. 13th St. in Fort Smith, you might have noticed a great big beehive on the building. Local beekeeper Doug Lively believes the hive may have up to 80,000 bees!
“I estimate it’s at least 3 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 12-15 inches thick,” Lively said. “You’re probably talking a few gallons of honey.” (See photos of the hive)
The hive first appeared in spring 2011. Lively believes this year’s mild winter helped the hive grow and said it will only get bigger.
“Normally, in this part of the country, you won’t see one built up like that,” he said.
Even if it was below freezing outside, Lively said the worker bees huddle around their queen and keep the hive at about 92 degrees.
Worker bees are all female and the only bees most people ever see, according to the National Geographic website. Each hive has only one queen.
The queen’s job is simple — laying the eggs that will spawn the hive’s next generation of bees. She will lay up to 2,000 eggs a day for two to five years, according to Lively.
If the queen dies, or if she doesn’t lay as many eggs as the worker bees think she should, they will find a new queen.
The bees feed a substance known as “royal jelly” to several eggs, Lively said.
“This elixir enables the worker to develop into a fertile queen,” states an article on the National Geographic website.
A protective coating that looks like a peanut shell will be built up around the chosen eggs. For the next 16 days, those eggs will mature into adults.
The first bee to eat her way through the “peanut” will be crowned queen – but first, she has to kill off the other ladies in the running.
Lively said the queen bee will sting them and begin her reign as queen. First order of business: Mate with as many drones, the only male honey bees, as possible.
Fun fact: Bees mate midair. Another bee fact, drones die immediately after mating.
The queen will store all of the sperm she will need in her lifetime and return to the hive, Lively said. Once she releases her pheromones throughout the hive, the worker bees will accept and serve her.
It’s those same pheromones that allow the worker bees to know their queen is still alive.
“They will know within 30 minutes if she dies,” Lively said. And the process to find a new queen begins.
If the queen doesn’t die but is “voted out” by the hive, Lively said the old queen will take between 30 to 50 percent of the worker bees with her and form a new hive somewhere else.
According to About.com, honey bees can fly at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
Honey has many health benefits and can be used as an astringent, antibiotic and to treat burns. Honey made locally has been said to cure allergies. Lively, an insurance agent in Fort Smith, said that’s why he got into beekeeping as a hobby.
“It’s so much different than the honey you get in the store,” he said. “That next summer, I didn’t have any allergies.”
Lively is president of the Western Arkansas/Eastern Oklahoma Beekeepers Association. The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Janet Huckabee River Valley Nature Center at 8300 Wells Lake Road in Fort Smith. Those meetings are open to anyone who would like to learn more about bees.
So what will happen to the 5NEWS bee hive? In the fall, the queen bee will not lay as many eggs, and the population will decrease. Lively says that would be the best time relocate the hive safely.
Take a look at the photos below: