GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Environmental Division’s Phillip Glaab and Helmut Schwindl of USAG Bavaria Directorate of Public Works recently relocated two honey bee colonies in buildings marked for demolition due to safety hazards.
Glaab identified the honey bees during the legally-required environmental review during the demolition project and contacted Helmut Schwindl for help because of his beekeeping expertise.
Legal protection of bees
Honey bees are considered a domestic species and are protected by Germany’s Tierschutzgesetz, or Animal Welfare Law. Honey bees are essential for a healthy environment, because they pollinate the flowering plants that produce fruits and seeds. We directly benefit because our crops get pollinated, and we are provided with food, honey and beeswax.
Unlike their bee cousins, wasps, hornets and hundreds of native German bee species are protected by Germany’s Nature Protection Law. It is prohibited for people to kill them without reason.
Bee colonies for new beekeepers
Honey bees work hard to build their hives and are aggressive towards anyone or anything that could harm their home. Working with bees is a dangerous task for someone who does not know what they are doing. Schwindl has been beekeeping for five years and was prepared for the task.
“First, I opened the outer panel of the building and removed the honeycombs,” said Schwindl. “Once I found the brood comb (comb with eggs and larvae), I searched for the queen. After finding her, I gently removed the comb, placed the bees into a wooden box with a lid and safely transported them home.”
“I will help the two hives through the winter,” he said, “which is a stressful time for bees. In the spring, I will give them to new beekeepers.”
Schwindl, who participates in a “bee father” program, will teach the new bee owners about beekeeping and mentor them through the learning process.
Fascinating lives of honey bees
Honey bees lead busy, socially complex lives. All hives contain one queen and thousands of female “worker” bees and male “drone” bees. The queen is responsible for mating and regenerating the hive.
It takes 21 days for worker-bee eggs to develop into mature adults. Once the worker-bee matures, she will take on many roles over the course of her 40 to 60-day life.
She starts off as a hive cleaner, and then becomes a midwife caring for the young. After that, she helps build the hive with her wax-producing abdominal glands, guards and protects the hive and finally forages for pollen, water and nectar.
The drone’s main job is to mate with a queen from a different hive.
Bees not only have complex social lives, they use complex ways to communicate with one another. Forager honey bees use dances to communicate new food source locations to other forager bees. When a new food source is found, she goes back to the nest and performs a dance by running in a precise pattern, using specific lengths, turns and speeds to communicate the location. This dance pattern tells the other bees the direction and distance of the flowers from the hive.
If you live or work in one of the USAG Bavaria military footprints and find a hornet nest, wasp nest or bee hive in an area that has potential to be a human health threat, please contact the Environmental Division at DSN 475-7711, CIV 09641-83-7711 for assistance and further information. Hornets, wasps and bees are protected by law and can only be removed by specially-trained personnel.