Drone brood
Lighting the smoker
Capped honey
Brood nest
Comb honey
Different types of honey


UVA Bee School is an informal seminar at the University of Virginia on the mathematics of honeybee behavior and the practice of beekeeping. It's part academic pursuit and part social activity, honoring the University's unique tradition of close student-faculty friendship. It's led by Associate Professor of Mathematics Christian Gromoll, and generously supported by the Mead Endowment.
Hive intelligence
Honeybees survive by acquisition, defense, and efficient allocation of various resources, to enable successful overwintering and reproduction. This requires sophisticated decision making, akin to that needed by manufacturing firms, and beyond the capability of a single bee's brain. But when each bee follows simple sets of rules, the aggregate effect creates an emergent intelligence for the colony as a whole, able to react to a dynamic environment and achieve complex optimizations.
We're interested in understanding some of the mathematical principles underlying the colony intelligence of honeybees. We meet roughly every other week from October through April to discuss articles from the scientific literature on honeybees. We also do some mathematical modeling of specific honeybee optimization behaviors. Along the way, we learn some aspects of honeybee biology and ecology, as well as the history and practice of beekeeping.
We're also interested in getting to know each other, and getting to know the bees. In the Fall and Spring, we meet regularly at Professor Gromoll's home for hands-on activities in the apiary. This includes an opening breakfast in the Fall, and a dinner in the Spring. We'll also start a new honeybee colony for the group, and take a field trip to a larger apiary in the area.

13 April 2012

Swarm 2

We got a call from neighbor Mark Reed to come retrieve a swarm that had settled in the tree at the end of his driveway. As luck would have it, his call came right before our regularly scheduled Friday afternoon bee school meeting, so the "squad" was already on its way over.

We made it over to the Reed's in Forest Lakes about 40 minutes later. The swarm had completely settled and was quietly going about its business sending out nesting site scouts.

This swarm was only about 10-15 feet up, easily reached with the ladder. But it was awkwardly located on two crossing branches, and was also surrounded by branches, one of which we had to prune. After wetting down the swarm, we shook the branches until most of the bees had fallen into our swarm box. It wasn't a particularly clean operation though, and we put a lot of bees in the air. Our onlookers commented at one point that it looked like we were taking a shower with bees.

We could only hope we got the queen in the box. We placed it at the base of the tree and watched for a bit. The general flow of bees was into the box. The remains of the cluster of bees up on the branch grew a little at first, but then began to dwindle. So we were pretty sure we had the queen in the swarm box. We decided to leave it there for the rest of the afternoon and let all the bees find their way in.

I returned after dark to retrieve the box. The kids, being excellent guardians, had put this sign up next to the swarm box. The rest of the photos are here.

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