Head tool librarian Christian Russell holds a couple thousand bees, freshly delivered from Polson, before transferring them into their new hives at MUD.

Introducing the newest MUD members: bees! On April 24, two hives of honeybees made the trek from Western Bee Supplies in Polson, MT, to their new home behind the MUD Tool Library. MUD’s blossoming apple and plum trees are abuzz with our new residents, who may have already become acquainted with the flowers in your garden or yard!

At MUD, we strive to be a replicable model of urban sustainability. You may be wondering – what exactly do bees have to do with sustainability? The answer, in short, is pollination. Honeybees spend their days pollinating flowers, which allows plants to reproduce and helps create healthy ecosystems around the world. Bees’ hard work also has a huge impact on our food system – one out of every three bites of food you eat is thanks to bees! This is true whether that bite travelled thousands of miles to wind up on your plate or was harvested from your own backyard. Because eating locally is key to lowering your carbon footprint, keeping happy, healthy pollinators close to home is one of many key things you can do to live more sustainably.

The queen bee is transported in her own small box, sealed with a cork. To help the bees acclimate to their new location, the cork is replaced with a marshmallow, which the other bees slowly consume to release the queen.

In addition to ecological sustainability, bees can also be a source of economic sustainability. A family with a garden and a backyard beehive may reap DOUBLE the harvest than a family without the help of bees! Bees also make a variety of products that beekeepers can sell or put to good use themselves. These products include honey, of course, and also the lesser-known bee pollen and beeswax. Bee pollen is the pollen collected by bees when they’re searching for nectar. It can be harvested from the hive for human consumption, and although it is not as sweet as honey, it is still delicious and rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes, and amino acids. Beeswax is what bees use to make honeycomb – the building block of the hive. Beekeepers can harvest it to use it as an ingredient in body moisturizer, soap, reusable food wraps, healing salves, furniture polish, candles…and the list goes on!

The queen now released, Christian transfers the bees into their new hive at MUD.

Bees do so many incredible things for us and for our planet, and yet unfortunately, bee populations worldwide are in decline. Environmental factors such as pesticides, climate change, and invasive parasites all equal tough times for honeybees. Offering bees a safe haven in our backyards is a small way of repaying them for maintaining healthy ecosystems and putting food on our plates. Plus, studies show that bees thrive in urban areas. Due to the diversity of plants and lower concentration of pesticides in urban versus agricultural areas, urban bees produce an average of 10% more honey and have over a 20% higher chance of surviving winter than their rural counterparts. Win for the bees, win for us, win for the planet!

Many would-be-beekeepers worry about the logistics and safety of hosting stinger-bearing insects just outside their back door. However, honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and unless you have a known bee allergy, they pose little threat to their keepers when the right precautions are taken. Getting informed through a class with Big Sky Beekeepers or MUD, using appropriate equipment like a bee suit and smoker when handling the hive, and understanding the natural rhythms of your bees will help you live in harmony with your new neighbors. 

The MUD beehives are located between two plum trees behind the tool library.

We at MUD will be rebooting our urban beekeeping workshop series when it’s safe to gather again – keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for updates! Thanks for helping us welcome our busy insect friends, and we look forward to sharing our beekeeping journey with you. 

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