UW News

September 7, 2023

Video: New hives at UW Farm welcome us to ‘bee curious’

UW News

The UW Farm welcomed an addition this spring: two bee hives in an apiary on the south side of the Center for Urban Horticulture. The new hives are tended by Kurt Sahl, a program manager at the University of Washington’s Continuum College who, together with UW Farm manager Perry Acworth, re-launched the farm’s beekeeping program in early 2023. 

Close up of hands holding a jelly jar of yellow honey comb and honey.

Kurt Sahl holds a jar of early summer honey from the UW beehives.

Sahl is a volunteer beekeeper for now, observing the bees and preparing the hives for cooler weather. In the coming school year, he hopes to instruct students interested in bee science, sharing his deep interest in the role they play in the natural world.

On a Friday in August, Sahl gently applied smoke to calm a colony, then opened what looked like a stack of painted wood boxes to reveal layers of insect activity — each box designed for different manifestations of a bee’s work. The bottom boxes, called brood boxes, house the queen bee and provide a nursery for the eggs she lays and food for the larvae as they grow. The top boxes hold panels where bees create wax hexagons and fill them with honey. The panels provide easy access to the sweet comb built on the frame. 

Two stacks of wooden bee boxes sit in a dry, grassy clearing.Sahl harvested some honey early in the summer — a light colored honey made when bees were visiting blackberry blooms. The remaining honey will be left to feed the bees during the winter. Sahl checks the bees regularly for parasites; Varroa mites are one of the most serious threats to bee health. 

Acworth says people are curious about bees, and the hives will serve as a teaching tool for students who want to know more about agriculture and the function of pollinators in the ecosystem. Two courses where students will work with the bees are being offered this fall: Urban Farm Class 240 and a new ‘Soil to Seed to Snack’ Path to UW course. 

UW Botanic Gardens manages the apiary, and bee-related farm programs are supported by the UW School of Public Health/Nutritional Sciences Program, UW College of the Environment, UW Housing and Food Services and individual donors.