What's the Buzz?

4.12.2019 | An update on the EPES Observation Hive

Our Honey Bees are Coming!

The Estes Park School District is excited to announce the installation of an educational observation hive in the Elementary School makerspace/library. Thanks to funding for the hive from a Whole Kids grant in association with The Bee Cause Project, as well as a generous grant from our local Safeway Foundation to help build and implement the complimenting "pollinator garden” outside, the Bee Team has been busy preparing for the arrival of our honey bees. The members of the bee team have been training with beekeepers from the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster to learn how to take care of our hive and these amazing little pollinators, and prepping the pollinator garden area outside of the library in anticipation of warmer weather when flowers will begin blooming to give them the proper landscape for success.

As part of the preparation for our little pollinators, we thought it would be helpful to take some time to educate our students, staff and families on bee etiquette and answer some frequent questions about these fuzzy buzzies!

"Bees live as people should live: naturally, symbiotically, and in a manner that only contributes positively to the world around them".

-Ted Dennard, Founder of The Bee Cause Project

Safety Guidelines and Bee Etiquette

Signage: All Observation Hives come with a sign to be posted near the beehive entrance on the exterior of the building. This helps alert visitors that there are bees in the area. Also, it helps to remind people about not using harmful chemicals, especially near the Observation Hive.

Bee Entrance: For the Observation Hive, the bees enter and exit on the outside of the building. If you are outside, please stay clear of the hive entrance. Bees need about 4 to 5 feet of clearance before they fly up towards the sky. It is a good idea to give them a safe, 10-foot perimeter so that their flight is uninterrupted.

Bees Inside the Library: Frankly there’s not much to be concerned about. The hive case is a sturdy and secure container. Bees cannot fly out, climb out, or chew out. In the rare incident where a bee may have found its way into the building without using the bee entrance, you may gently place a cup over the bee and slide a piece of paper between the cup and surface on which the bee landed. The bee may then be transferred outside.

Bee Etiquette: The honey bees are very busy, and for the most part, will not notice you near the Observation Hive. Please keep it that way. Strong vibrations or very loud noises may agitate the bees, and in order to protect the hive, they may sting someone outside. Help the bees feel at home by providing an environment void of extremes in the temperature and noise.

Buzz Facts and Frequently Asked Questions:

What is an observation hive?

The observation hive is unique in that bees can be observed and studied without disrupting the colony. The hive is made of solid wood and Plexiglas, and is secured to an exterior wall. All bee related components (including the honeycombs) are securely enclosed inside the media center/library. The bees go directly to the outdoors through a small tube leading to the outdoor bee garden area.

Once installed, the colony of bees will forage for food and will create the perfect habitat needed for its well-being. A colony will adjust its work and life cycles to the seasons, creating brood, reproducing, collecting pollen and nectar, storing honey, and clustering for winter. A partnership with a BeeCause beekeeper helps our district monitor the health of the amazing superorganism that is the beehive.

Why are the bees vanishing?

The honeybee population has been in steady decline. There are a number of factors that may be contributing to the collapse of so many bee colonies including the over-use of pesticides, climate changes, genetically modified crops, and other environmental issues.

How does an observation hive help the bee population?

You are not just providing a home for a colony of bees. When you have a hive you are raising awareness. A single observation hive can teach hundreds of people about the importance of the honeybee to our ecosystem. Our students will be able to identify how essential the honey bee is to our food chain and connect with nature. What a great experience!

Are bees dangerous?

We recognize that bee sting allergies are a real concern for parents. An observation hive is completely sealed except for a small hole that goes straight to the outdoors, so students are not at any more risk for exposure than they are when they are playing outside any other warm and sunny day. As children learn about these amazing insects, they quickly develop a sense of ownership for their bees. Children’s awareness of and respect for the natural world increases. Education is key and our staff will continue to make student safety a priority.

Interested in helping with the Bee Team?

If you are interested in BEEcoming a volunteer or part of the bee team, we would love to have you! Please reach out to the project coordinator, Erinn Wharton at Erinn_Wharton@estesschools.org.

Together as a community we can raise awareness for these amazing insects!