The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Green River Lake office is the home of approximately 20,000 honey bees in the interpretive live beehive tree exhibit at their visitor center in Campbellsville, Kentucky.
Green River Lake installed the exhibit in December 2017. There are six frames on each side of the exhibit with two hives total, each with their own queen. Two tubes run from the hives to the outside of the building so that the bees can come and go as they please, as the bees’ main job is to protect their queen.
“20,000 is actually a low number compared to what normal bee hives are but we keep ours small on purpose because of the limited space we have,” said Andrea Davis, Green River Lake park ranger and beekeeper who was instrumental in setting up the display.
Right now the hives are currently very active due to the spring and summer season. The bees in the exhibit produce honey in the hives, however; the honey is not extracted.
“That is the number one question we get from the public ‘what do you do with the honey?’, and we don’t do anything with it,” Davis said. “We leave it in there because the bees eat it, especially in the winter - that is how they stay alive.”
Larry Lemmon, Green River Lake’s lead park ranger, used to be in charge of the visitor center and when Davis took over that responsibility, she took his vision of a live bee exhibit and turned it into a reality.
“We wanted to do something more natural so we did it in a tree versus a traditional observation hive,” Davis said. “We have seen exhibits at other places and really wanted to do one here.”
Davis created the contract from scratch and designed the exhibit herself. She attended beekeeper training in early 2018 but studied up on them long before the exhibit was built. Davis currently works closely with the local Green River Beekeeping Association group to keep the beehives functioning and healthy.
“I am the only one here that does anything with the bees,” Davis said. “I take care of them; I keep them fed and watch over them. We have another hive in our maintenance shop that I can always pull from if we need a new queen or need a frame with honey for the exhibit.”
According to The Honeybee Conservancy, if it weren’t for bees, about one third of the food that humans eat would not be available. Bees can help make crops not only look and taste better, but also help increase the amount that can be grown at a given time.
“My favorite part of being the beekeeper is the process it took to learn about bees because they are fascinating creatures - so small, but so smart.” Davis said. “Learning what they do, the services they provide and being able to share that information to teach others is really fun for me.”
Other exhibits at Green River Lake visitor center include Native American artifacts from the area, a live turtle display, water safety display and a large 1,500 gallon fish aquarium.