MOAB, Utah -- Things are abuzz at EM’s Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project site in Utah. This spring, two Italian honeybee hives were started on the site’s northeast portion.
Moab Remedial Action Contractor Radiological Control Manager Ron Daily, a hobby beekeeper, noticed a lack of natural pollinators at the Moab site other than wind. He proposed bringing hives to the site to see if the increase in pollination from the bees could enhance revegetation efforts.
The Italian bees were chosen because they are less defensive and less prone to disease than their German counterparts, and they are excellent honey producers. Italian bees were brought to the U.S. in 1859 and they quickly became the favorite bee stock in this country. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them the entire summer. The bees are lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait popular with many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal.
Daily, who currently has five hives of his own, became interested in bees because they were dying out and he wanted to help bee colonies live longer. The isolation of the Moab valley limits cross-pollination in bees, which can lead to disease and other problems that shorten their lifecycle.
The hives for the Moab site came from central Utah. Each hive comes with 6,000 to 7,000 bees and a queen. After about a year, the bee population will grow to 15,000 to 20,000. The average lifecycle of these bees is 180 days. “They are all about taking care of the hive,” says Daily. During their lifetime, bees will progress from caretaking of the hive, to honeycomb making, to flying around pollinating — the last stage before they die.
Employees were informed of the plan to bring hives to the site and given opportunity to express concerns but none was voiced. Since their arrival, the bees have been busy settling in, and Daily expects to see an increase in pollination this year.
“Honey will not be harvested until next year to let the hives mature,” he said.
Next year, the bees will produce 30 to 40 pounds of honey. The local bee inspector will also keep an eye on these hives to ensure they remain healthy and disease free.