Flooding forces Bayer to rescue bees used for research

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. - The St. Louis region’s flooding woes are impacting beehives in Maryland Heights, Missouri.  An overflowing Creve Coeur Lake is filling agricultural land and threatening a colony of bees used for research by Bayer.

“So we have to move a bunch of hives,” says Jim Masucci, Bayer Bee Health Team Field Director. “The water has come up high enough where it’s put our bee hives at risk. These are our research hives that we’re using.  We’ve got 25 hives we need to move to higher ground to get them dry.”

Early Thursday morning, workers clad in bee suits and waders made their way through the water to close up the boxes and collect some bees.  These particular bees are of Italian descent.  Bayer’s bee health team is studying these honeybees to determine how to fight the Varroa mite, a deadly parasite killing colonies.

“The water is deep enough we need john boats to get out to the bees.  We have to drag the boats by hand, pack them onto the boats, and bring them back,” explains Masucci.

A typical hive this time of year will have 30,000 to 50,000 bees.

“They’ll forage during the day and come back to the hive at night,” says Masucci.  “So, before they wake up and start foraging we have to screen up the entrances so they’re trapped in the hive until we move them. The rule of hives is you move them two feet or two miles.  If you move them within that span, say 50 yards, they’ll go back to where the hive was and they’ll be lost.  So, when they come out after you move them greater than two miles they'll reorient and learn the new land.”

The new land, in this case, is the Bayer campus in Chesterfield, where the bees will stay at least for the next few months.

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