The New Buzz About Bees

Trends in beekeeping mean increased demand for equipment.
10 April, 2017
The global decline in bee populations has alarmed many concerned about the pollinator's role in food production and biodiversity.
Beekeepers in the United States said they lost 44 percent of their honeybee colonies in the year ending April 2016, measured by an annual survey that's wrapping up for 2017.

That has led to a call to action for individuals who have become beekeepers – backyard and otherwise – and the communities that are becoming "bee-friendly" to support their efforts. By placing bee hives on parkland, in vacant lots and urban rooftops, the movement has reached a new generation of apiary enthusiasts at the same time beekeeping traditions continue in India, China and across the African continent.
It all adds up to the demand for more beekeeping knowledge and equipment, and aluminium has a place in protecting bee resources. The "Beetle Baffle" is a product invented by one beekeeper who discovered a deceptively simple solution to a maddening – and expensive – problem for people trying to protect their bees from beetle infestation.

Beekeepers losing their colonies to the small hive beetles needed a solution that allows the bees to come in and out of their "front door" without any barriers, at the same time that the beetles, a natural and rapidly reproducing enemy to bees that causes colony failure, can't readily do that. The baffles are made of aluminium strips designed so that the bees can navigate without a care, but the beetles can't walk over them and get into hive crevices.

"The geometry of the barrier is such that it is very difficult for beetles to pass as they climb upward toward the combs," says creator Haynes Haselmaier, whose family has been in beekeeping since World War II. "Conversely, bees pay it very little attention since they are much more anatomically suited to simply step over it."
Another role for aluminium materials is the queen excluder, a device that many (but not all) keepers use to manage their hives for maximum yield. These barriers allow the worker bees to pass freely through perforated holes or screens, while preventing the larger queen bee and any drones from doing so.

"Similar to its use in human spaces, perforated metal is used to divide a space and selectively limit what can cross the barrier," says the Locker Group, which makes them for Australia and Asian markets.
They're designed to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey and comb beekeepers hope to harvest and are also useful for better managing hive populations. Many keepers, however, will say they affect how worker bees act. It's just one of the frame parts, fencing and other equipment used in the growing and eco-friendly bee cultivation movement, even for people with a backyard hobby.

While the causes of colony collapse disorder and other threats to bees remain highly controversial and often unclear, people from all walks of life are stepping up to support bee populations. That's also meant that city governments are passing laws making it easier to keep bees within city limits, which often requires safety fencing, especially if hives are placed in public spaces or within communities where homes are closer together.