The beehive travels inside a large screen cage to keep the bees from getting out. Bill Skelton, director of the Haywood County Cooperative Extension, climbed into the giant bee pen to show students the inner workings of the beehive.
Before pulling out one of the combs, Skelton used a portable smoker to send smoke over the hive. The smoke tricks the bees into thinking there is a fire, prompting them to fill up on as much honey as they can. Full of honey, they are too stuffed to sting.
“It’s kind of like how you feel after Thanksgiving dinner,” Skelton said
If they sense a fire, they stock up on honey it case it destroys their hive. If fire destroyed their hive they have to start a new one, and will need the honey to jumpstart the combs that would be the foundation for the new hive, explained Wallace Simmons, a Haywood County cooperative extension agent.
The traveling beehive is used to educate people about the importance of bees in pollinating the nation’s food supply. It is also used to get new people interested in bee keeping by giving them hands-on experience handling and taking care of a hive before they start their own. An exotic pest is threatening the bee population, making it more important than ever for people to start beehives.
“It used to be you could have bees. Now you have to keep bees,” Skelton said.
— By Becky Johnson