Elon's devoted beekeeper

Elon senior Megan Noor breaks down her beekeeping process as a caretaker

Elon University senior Megan Noor is in search of a new caretaker for the bees she’s helped manage the last three years. Noor, who spent the spring taking care of bees, has been interested in bees ever since she joined the organization her freshman year. 

While Covid-19 has seemingly affected and altered every inch of our lives, beekeeping for Noor hasn’t changed a bit. Noor expects to continue her hobby years down the road and will hopefully find a beekeeper, as passionate as herself, by the end of her last year at Elon. 

After taking a class with the Alamance County Beekeepers Association, she was able to obtain a grant that bought her the bees that are on the Loy Farm now. Noor has continued to take care of the bees and teach interested students on how to care for them. 

One of the ways Noor takes care of the bees is by using the smoker. Using dead leaves or dry grass the smoke serves two functions: first to “make the bees kind of tired and sleepy and a little confused” and second to “make them think that their hive is on fire,” which causes them to retreat to their hive and occupy themselves with flapping their wings in an attempt to put the fire out.

In addition to using the smoker, Noor runs through the steps of opening the hive and inspecting it. With a “hive tool” in hand, Noor has to use it to separate the different frames within the hive because of the sticky substance that holds them together. 

“Propolis, which is like a gluey substance that they use to stick the parts of their hive together ... it’s also got antimicrobial properties so I use it to fill up any cracks in their hives where pests or bacteria could be growing,” she said. 

Noor also described what her normal inspection process looks like. She said that hive inspections are to check for pests such as Veroma parasites, hive beetles, and wax moths. Walking through every step of the inspection process, Noor demonstrates her method using a cup of bees, a mesh lid, and powdered sugar. She scoops bees into a mason jar, fills it with powdered sugar, and shakes it around to essentially coat the bees in the sugar.

“The powdered sugar gets under the mites feet so they can’t stick to the bees and they fall off. Then you turn the jar upside down and kind of shake it onto a paper towel where they land so that you can count them”, Noor demonstrated. 

She also checks for the presence of a queen and if she is laying eggs or not. The hive is organized into frames and Noor removes and inspects each frame for either honey or baby bees, called brood, in the wax honeycomb. 

Recently, Noor obtained a new beehive, but one that was described to having particularly aggressive bees. Noor and her Beekeepers Association mentor suspects that these are Africanized Bees because of their aggressive stinging behavior. Noor explained that while there are good parts of Africanized Bees, like how they are more resistant to parasites and certain diseases, they are pretty dangerous to have as a beekeeper. 

By killing off the current Africanized queen and replacing her with a new queen, without Africanized genes, the hive will become less aggressive as new bees are born. Noor places the new queen in a plastic cage, isolated from the other bees and it stays in there until the hive adjusts to her pheromones. Then she is released into the hive.

While the bees are indeed producing honey, Noor said that she will not be removing any because the bees are so new to the hive and they’ll need it as a food to survive the winter. She also mentions honey extracting equipment would be required but Elon does not have any of that at the moment.