Education

What’s the buzz at this school? It’s tucked away in the back of the library

School's beehive provides safe place for bees, learning opportunities

An observation beehive with hundreds of honey bees has been installed in the library of Mount de Sales Academy in Macon.
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An observation beehive with hundreds of honey bees has been installed in the library of Mount de Sales Academy in Macon.

A Macon school is buzzing after welcoming some new residents.

An “observation beehive” with hundreds of honeybees now sits at the back of the library at Mount de Sales Academy.

Seniors Alanna Byrne and Katy Holloway were researching ways their school could help the environment when they learned about the declining honeybee population. They decided to create an observation beehive, modeled after the Bee Cause Project in Savannah.

Local beekeeper Steve Nofs, of Shamrock Apiaries, came on board as their adviser, and he talked them through the process. They gained the support of the school’s student body after giving a presentation on Earth Day.

Through school fundraisers, Byrne and Holloway raised the $1,200 needed for their project. They collected $150 from a spare change fundraiser; $300 during a dress down day, in which students paid $1 to wear stripes; and $350 from a bake sale. They earned the rest by selling jars of local, organic honey, provided by Nofs at a discount rate, Byrne said.

“It took (Byrne and Holloway’s) leadership for this to manifest,” said Jeff Dadisman, who teaches Advanced Placement environmental science, botany, horticulture and ecology at Mount de Sales. “The entire school rallied around the idea. It took a few rounds of fundraising to get there.”

A glass-and-wood box with a feeder at the top was installed over the summer, and Nofs brought the bees and honeycomb Saturday, Byrne said. The bees can travel between the hive and the outside world through a small hole at the bottom of the box, which connects to a big, metal “bee chimney” on the outside of the school building, Holloway said. Art students will decorate that outdoor box in the future.

Now, students are working on maintaining the hive and learning how to properly clean it and check on the bees.

“It provides a safe home for bees,” Byrne said. “It can be incorporated into the course of study. (Students) can come and see what a beehive looks like. They can see the queen bee. It just kind of promotes a positive atmosphere about what we can do to help.”

Many people don’t realize the role bees play in the world, and the new beehive will help eliminate some of the stigma surrounding these insects, Dadisman said. Teachers at the school will be able to use the beehive as a learning opportunity for students. Honey could be collected from the bees in the future, but that’s not the main goal of the project.

“Plants are the foundation of all ecosystems, and above any other living thing on the planet, (bees) are the single most important pollinator of plants,” Dadisman said. “They are kind of the glue that keeps plant communities together.

“The flip side of that is the amazing complexity of the insect world and their behaviors, like the hive behaviors.”

Mount de Sales has been focusing on ways to reduce its carbon footprint through an environmental sustainability initiative led by Dadisman, said Amanda Livingston, the school’s director of marketing and development.

The environmental club is involved with the beehive, and the project also ties into recycling efforts and the campus garden, Byrne said. The garden, with eight raised beds, was built this summer and grows fruit and vegetables that are incorporated into lunches, Livingston said. Bees in the hive will improve pollination of those plants, Dadisman said.

“It’s surreal to see (the bees) here, because it’s been a long time coming,” Holloway said.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

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