The buzz is back

Posted on May 9, 2014 in Campus News and News

With the help of an anonymous donor, the bee exhibition at the KU Museum of Natural History is once again buzzing with activity.

The exhibition had been closed since February, when subzero temperatures following a 14-inch snowfall that shut down campus for two days also killed the bees in the museum’s observation hive.

Bee numbers had already taken a hit from parasites, but the museum managed to stabilize the hive and hoped to carry it over to spring, when the bees could repopulate. A webcam was set to broadcast the exhibition. Then a rare sustained east wind apparently caused the weakened colony to cluster in the hive’s entrance tube to block the breeze.

“We got the camera installed and everything tested, then the storm hit and we’re done,” says Bruce Scherting, director of exhibits. “Nothing to see.”

Parasites and infections have wiped out the bees before, but death by deep freeze is a first—one more indicator of the troubles pollinators face.

“If you talk to people who raise bees, you hear many of the same stories, about the challenges of fungal infections, mites and weather,” Scherting says.

On May 9 the museum installed new bees and rebooted the exhibition. The project was funded by a gift honoring Lawrence, assoc., and Frances Smith Moore, d’75.

“It’s a nice way to show how wonderful bees are and what they do for people,” Scherting says of the exhibition, which is a popular favorite and a valuable teaching tool. “It draws attention to the bigger problem that’s happening out in the world: Bees are having a really hard time of it.”

—Steven Hill

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