The Indianapolis Airport Authority stewards 2,000 acres of land that provides a protected habitat for multiple species to reside and grow. In the spring of 2015 an apiary, a site housing multiple beehives, was established for the preservation and cultivation of honeybees, a genus of insect currently declining across North America. The apiary is overseen and maintained by members of the White Lick Beekeepers Association. The land not only allows for the breeding and development of these creatures, but also creates an educational and recreational opportunity for the surrounding community.
One beehive is generally sufficient to pollinate an acre of human crops. A single colony can pollinate up to 300 million flowers every day, the variety of which affects the flavor of the bee’s honey. Without the pollination process of bees passing pollen from plant to plant, our crops would produce only flowers. It is estimated that honeybees, both domestic and wild, perform about 80% of all pollination worldwide, and 70 of the top 100 crops we consume are produced as a result of pollination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has stated that bee pollination adds about $15 billion to the value of crops each year. A common rule of thumb, says the USDA, is that bees are responsible for every third bite of food that we take. In Indiana alone, bees produce over 609,000 pounds of honey per year!
Honey Bee Colony Structure
Like a human factory, a beehive is a busy place. Each hive is presided over by a single queen bee who will normally live approximately 3 to 5 years and is responsible for maintaining the colony population through reproduction. Her subjects consist of 20,000 to 80,000 worker bees, depending upon the size of the hive. These workers bees are also female, but with a much lower life expectancy – worker bees will live to be only 4 to 9 months old. As might be expected given their title, worker bees shoulder much of the work around the hive, and their responsibilities range from caring for infant bees, building the hive and keeping it clean, guarding the hive against threats, and of course, gathering nectar for honey production. Each beehive maintains a smaller male population of 300 to 30,000 bees. These are known as drones. Unlike the worker bees, these drones have only one responsibility, which is to mate with the queen. Afterwards, they soon die, and most drones only live 40 to 50 days.
Initially, there were four hives in the apiary, each comprising of its own independent colony explained Dale Turner, Vice-president of White Lick Beekeepers Association. The population per each hive can reach up to 110,000 bees in the summer time. IND's apiary is capable of housing dozens of hives all of which are installed and maintained by individuals from the White Lick Beekeepers Association. They plan on adding another 35 hives in the next several years, which will potentially produce about 3.5 million bees per year. Each hive is owned and managed by individuals in the association.
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United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. (2015). Honey bee health and colony collapse disorder. Retrieved from http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572
White Lick Beekeepers Association. (n.d.). Getting started. Retrieved from http://www.whitelickbeekeepers.org/getting-started.html
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Indianapolis Airport Authority. (2015, March 23). Indianapolis Airport Authority supports rapidly diminishing honey bees and helps boost food security. Media Releases. Retrieved from http://www.indianapolisairport.com/admin/uploads/1111/03.23.15%20New%20Honey%20Bee%20Apiary%20at% 20the%20Indianapolis%20International%20Airport.pdf