The Bee Lords

By Elizabeth Forbes, Beekeeper, Bowling Green, Kentucky

Some of you may remember reading in the April edition of Modern Beekeeping about a community screening of the documentary Vanishing of the Bees. It was hosted in Bowling Green, Kentucky on Earth Day by a group of concerned organizations and beekeepers including myself. In the audience that day were two seniors from Bowling Green High School. David Wesley and Paige Hughart were no strangers to a good cause. David was the founder and president of the high school’s “Rock the Boat” club, which had already started a school-wide recycling program and continually worked towards various other political and earth conscious projects.

The following day, these students went to the high school principal and explained what they’d learned, and asked if they could start a beehive at the school. The principal in turn called me, a beekeeper and school district employee, to see if I could offer some assistance. This was exactly what I hoped would come out of the community screening of Vanishing of the Bees. I went to meet with them and from there, things took off!

The students didn’t want to wait until the following spring to get the hive started, they were graduating in exactly one month, and they wanted to leave their mark before they left. They also decided they wanted to install a Langstroth hive, as opposed to a top bar or other style, because they wanted to be able to extract honey and recycle wax to make candles, etc., with proceeds going back to support the program. I volunteered to try and round up donations of equipment and bees, and the students were charged with rounding up more students to participate in the bee project.

My first phone call was to Walter Kelley’s, where an always gracious customer service rep suggested I email a Kelley employee with my entire wish list and just see if she would be willing to donate any of our equipment needs.

I did just that, and in the blink of an eye, a Kelley employee emailed me back and said, “Sure, we can do that.” I did a double take. She was giving us everything we needed to get started…an entire Kentucky Special hive kit with frames and foundation, a veil, gloves, and smoker. Not wanting to wake up from this dream I emailed her back and said I’d be there the next morning to pick it up! Every afternoon for the following week, students came over to my garage and assembled and wired all of the hive components.

Once constructed, the hive bodies were taken to the BGHS art department, where art students painted on the finishing touches. Meanwhile, David and Paige attended the Allen and Warren County Beekeepers meetings during the months of April and May, explained the project, and asked for some additional donations of protective gear, and most importantly they asked for bees. Both clubs volunteered to cover the expense of two more sets of veil/gloves, and other members donated extra items they no longer used. John Benham, from the Allen County & Mammoth Cave Beekeepers Association, donated a 5-frame nuc of bees. The bees were installed on May 23, 2012, the day before school got out for summer. Gathered were students of all grade levels 8-12, beekeepers, alumnae, and the high school principal.

School was getting out for summer. I have to confess, a small part of me was wondering if I was going to be caring for this hive solo until school resumed in August. My worries were soon squelched. As soon as the bees were installed, the students started a Facebook page (The Bee Lords of Bowling Green High School) so we could all stay in touch and stay informed. Within two days there were close to 60 followers. Generally every three weeks, one student or another would get on Facebook and coordinate an inspection. The interest grew and we often had students, parents, and family friends all in attendance. What made it even better was the temperament of the bees. We could not have hoped for a stronger or more gentle colony of bees to serve as ambassadors into the world of beekeeping for these students.

There have been so many impressive acts over the last few months: The students’ courage to take action for this cause; and the principal for having the foresight to realize that a beehive at the school impacts more than just the students who suit up to inspect it. There are opportunities for the horticulture department, the wood shop, the art department…the list goes on. For the students who may not even know about the hive yet, it may be the one thing that gets them connected to their high school experience. And a world of gratitude goes to Walter T. Kelley Company and the local beekeeping community for their support, enthusiasm and generosity.

School is now back in full swing for the 2012-13 school year, and we are all excited about the future of this project at Bowling Green High School. We invite anyone interested to please join our group on Facebook: The Bee Lords of Bowling Green High School, and if you’re in the neighborhood when we’re inspecting, grab your veil and come on!

 

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