Capitol Campus soon to be home to 30,000 honeybees

Olympia Beekeepers Association member Mark Emrich installs a base for hive boxes last week on the front lawn of the Governor’s Mansion..
Olympia Beekeepers Association member Mark Emrich installs a base for hive boxes last week on the front lawn of the Governor’s Mansion.. The Associated Press

About 30,000 European honeybees will arrive at the Capitol this week as part of an effort to raise awareness about the decline of bee populations across the country and to boost pollination of plants on the Capitol Campus.

The Department of Enterprise Services announced that Wednesday, the Olympia Beekeepers Association will place bees in two hives to be set up on the front lawn of the Governor’s Mansion.

“There’s a lot of buzz about our new honeybee neighbors, and Trudi and I are looking forward to meeting them next week,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “The hives are a great addition.”

The hives, which were installed last week, will initially consist of a stand and one large box where the queen bee will lay her eggs. Smaller boxes to store excess honey will be stacked on top this year.

Beekeepers from the association will be responsible for care and upkeep of the hives.

Bees are critical to the food supply because about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of the pollination. Concern about bee health has been increasing, and federal officials are considering whether to protect two species of wild bumblebees.

Last week, garden care company Ortho announced it would stop using a class of chemicals believed to harm bees. The company said it has removed neonicotinoids from the majority of its products used to control garden pests and diseases. It plans to remove it from the remainder in two to five years.

A United Nations study released in February said neonics, as they’re commonly called, and other pesticides are among the causes of declining bee populations worldwide. Disease and lack of diversity in gardens and landscapes have contributed to the decline.

“We know a healthy bee population is a part of a healthy ecosystem, and it’s our hope these hives will bring some sweet results to our neck of the woods,” Inslee wrote.

This month, a different bee species will be brought to the east side of the Capitol Campus. Eight mason bee “condominiums” — 8-foot-tall cedar posts with 100 holes drilled into each one — will be set up, and thousands of mason bee cocoons will be inserted into the posts.

According to the Department of Enterprise Services, there are several species of mason bees, including one native to the Northwest.

The agency cited the Olympia Beekeepers Association in noting that honeybees are nonaggressive and will usually only sting in self-defense or when protecting a hive. Mason bees rarely sting and do not act aggressively around their nests, but unlike honeybees, they are solitary, the release said.