By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer
A colony of buzzing insects will mind their own bees wax when they arrive at their new home inside the Natural History Museum at Eastern New Mexico University. However, the public will get a chance to check into the bees’ business.
A bee hive has been constructed inside the Natural History Museum at Roosevelt Hall and is awaiting Thursday’s arrival of its new guests — 30,000 to 50,000 European-bred bees — who are coming by way of Texas to inhabit the 20 square foot plexiglas display.
“What is neat about the bees is that we are just borrowing them from nature. They can come and go as they please. They will be the only animals in this museum that are not captive,” said Marv Lutnesky, director of the Natural History Museum. He explained that the bees will be able to go back out into nature through a filter which runs from inside of the exhibit case to the outside of the building.
Once the bees arrive, they will be the only live insects at the Natural History Museum.
Bill Moyer of Southwest Pest Control, a local bee expert and one of four men who helped construct the bee hive, said, “The bees will build combs on the foundations (inside the frames). The combs will then be filled with pollen, nectar and honey.” He also said the bees will produce anywhere from 20 to 25 pounds of honey a year. He noted that the queen bee will be marked with a large dot.
“People will be able to watch the bees produce honey and then consume it over the winter,” Moyer said.
Tony Gennaro, a professor emeritus of biology at ENMU, said that diagrams will explain the dances the bees do, distinguish the queen bee and identify other characteristics.
Gennaro said this museum has had a bee hive every year for the past 10 years but the design of this particular bee hive is unique. It took more than 40 hours for the team to construct, he said. The construction team included Gennaro, Moyer, John Gentry of Portales Hardware and local carpenter, David Griffith.
Gennaro said that bees are important because, without them, we wouldn’t have a lot of the food we have, such as apples and other fruit.
Gentry, a local bee keeper, said the government has become concerned recently about the declining bee population and is not sure why this is happening. They are doing research on colony collapse disorder, a new virus which is reportedly causing bee colonies to disappear.
Gentry added, “With bees, plants do better and they make your flowers produce better.”
According to Gennaro, a former director of the Natural History Museum, the museum draws more than 4,000 visitors a year. Lutnesky said that anytime the museum gets a new exhibit, attendance increases for awhile.
Once the bees arrive, the bee hive can be viewed during normal museum hours which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.