The bees in the new observation beehive at the Cape May County Zoo are delighting visitors with their activity and their work ethic, but most of all with their dance moves.
"The foragers go through the clear tube to the outside, they come back in and do their waggle tail dance, and the kids really get a kick out of that," Janeen Moore, Cape May County Zoo bird and bee keeper said. "But it's really just the bee giving directions to (the other bees) where the good pollen is."
The new observation beehive is designed to allow visitors to view the activities of bees behind a glass structure. A clear tube runs from the beehive to the outside that lets onlookers watch the comings and goings of the insects. The exhibit is meant to educate the public on honeybees and their benefits to farming and wildlife.
"It's always nice to add new exhibits, but it's also an educational exhibit," Moore said. "Bees are really important. The honeybees have had a lot of problems over the past few years."
Some of those problems that the exhibit hopes to educate about are the dwindling number of honeybees due to things such as pesticides and exportation to different states. For instance, Moore said honey bees are being sent to states such as California and Florida to pollinate almonds and oranges.
"With the bees here, you can show people how it's done," Moore said. "It will just show people to not be afraid enough to swat a bee in the backyard."
The Cape May County Zoo's Carniolan honey bees were brought in from Georgia, Moore said, in
a makeshift rescue
"The exhibit was held somewhere else, and it was losing its home," said Diane Wieland, director of tourism for Cape May County and president of the zoological society.
The bees were donated by the New Jersey Bee Keepers Association, and the observation beehive is located at the World of Birds Aviary at the Cape May County Zoo.
"What's interesting is that they put the exhibit in the aviary, and now we have the birds and the bees together. Is that a sexy story or what?" Wieland said.
So far, the exhibit at the zoo is a small one. Moore said it can host thousands of bees, maybe as many as 40,000 at peak times, but the number definitely dwindles during the winter months. This hive, she said, will not produce any honey because all the honey the bees make is used to sustain the hive.
"For this, we won't have any honey," Moore said. "If we did, we'd probably give it to the bears."
Another goal of the observation beehive is to potentially convince some open-minded patrons to take up backyard beekeeping. Although it is difficult to produce honey as a backyard beekeeper due to the quantity of bees needed to produce honey, Moore said there are other benefits to raising bees.
"Most people that do it in their backyard do it because it improves their yards," she said. "And (people raise bees) because bees are struggling, and just to learn something new. It's a conservation thing, and it helps the environment."
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