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WHOI Beekeeping

Bees at WHOI

Bees are critical to the ecosystem, providing pollination that is vital for plant survival and the production of our veggies and fruits. The WHOI beekeeping group is an open and welcoming group of WHOI staff and friends with interests in bee husbandry and related pollinator activities. The group started in 2019 and is embarking on a beekeeping endeavor to bring hives to WHOI! 

The pilot project took off in 2020 when two new hives were installed at the WHOI campus. These hives were maintained throughout the whole year by both new and seasoned beekeepers and are thriving up till now. The project is continuing through 2021. Only one hive has survived the 2021 winter, but we are committed to bringing new hives to the campus either through splitting the existing hive or catch a swarm to keep the honey production going.

Join us!

We are continuously welcoming new volunteers to our group! Whether you have kept bees your whole life or have never seen a bee from close by, you are always welcome. Please contact if you want to join. 

2021 Woods Hole Foundation grant


The WHOI Beekeepers have been awarded a 2021 Woods Hole Foundation grant!

The award will help maintain and grow a small beekeeping endeavor on the WHOI campus. Funds would cover supplies for feeding, pest (disease, mites, etc.) control, and honey extraction and storage. This will enable us to keep donating honey sales proceeds to local services and/or charities, rather than depending on honey sales to maintain our hives.

We believe our group’s sustained offering of opportunities for education, outreach, and hands-on experiential learning helps build awareness in others in the Falmouth area to become involved in bee husbandry. This interest can potentially generate growth in the number of hives in the Falmouth area (encouraging general bee health on Cape Cod), and inspire gardeners to plant more native pollinator species. 

One year of WHOI beekeeping

Two beehives got installed on the WHOI campus in April 2020 by a group of volunteers and have been maintained ever since. Two separate species were selected based on their gentle nature, resistance to diseases, and honey production: Saskatraz and Carniolan. 

The bees were dependent on additional sugar syrup until June, but thrived on their own all the way through summer. They got through the summer drought without swarming or being robbed by other bees. Fall feeding started again by the end of September.

The hives were opened about 16 times throughout the year and these times were spent to check the hives, capture data about them, and teach the beekeeping trade to new beekeepers. All the frames showed excellent patterns in drone cells, brood and capped honey cells, although it was quite a challenge to spot the queens. Rodents were being kept out of the hives using mouse guards.

Varroa mites are a big concern for the survival of a bee population. We tested the infection rate of our bees using the sugar shake method. Half-cup of bees were sampled and rolled in powdered sugar, which loosens mites from the bees. By gently shaking these sugar-covered bees, mites fall onto a counting board. The bees got checked twice and both mite checks yielded high enough numbers to treat with Formic Acid strips. The vapors kill mites but not bees. Hives received one more varroa treatment right before winter in the form of an oxalic acid drip. 

One box of frames and honey was taken from the Saskatraz bees to extract honey. Fewer boxes are easier for the bees to keep warm throughout the winter. A candy board was added on top of the hive as extra winter food as well as a quilt box filled with burlap for extra insulation. 

The last step in the whole process is honey going from frame to jar. Cells in a honey frame are uncapped using a hot uncapping knife and fork. Honey is extracted from these uncapped frames using a centrifuge. The honey then flows into a strainer and is being poured into jars. Et voila! That is how jars with honey are being born! Fingers crossed these little ladies now survive the Cape Cod Winter!

A recorded lunch ‘n learn on our bees during the first year can be found here

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