The bees are back at Powhatan!
The Earth Day 2019 theme was “Protect Our Species” along with exploring pollinators.
Here at Powhatan, we have a beautiful, natural showcase in our sprawling campus and the Crocker Conservancy. Our trees burst into spring with thousands of blossoms, our gardens are in full bloom, and wildflowers blanket the campus. We teach about plant structure and pollination at various levels of our science curriculum, and spring is a perfect time to watch a variety of pollinators at work.
There are hundreds of thousands of flowering plant species in the world, and most of them are pollinated by insects. Studies show that 2 out of 5 – a full 40% – of insect species are in decline. At Powhatan, we decided that this Earth Week would be a great time to focus on protecting our pollinators. Each class had a job to help bring back the bees.
Our goal was to build and install two hives for honeybees on our campus. We ordered all the wood and hardware to assemble 10 hive boxes – also called supers – 5 for each hive. The 5th grade spent their science time on Monday of Earth Week in the Makerspace, carefully squaring, then gluing, and then nailing the hive boxes together. On Tuesday, the third graders primed the boxes to prepare them for a colorful outer coat of paint. Fourth graders designed and painted the boxes with vibrant colors and bee-themed messages, welcoming the bees home. Meanwhile, the upper schoolers worked on the intricate task of assembling the frames. With 100 frames to build, the task was quite a challenge. Seventh and eighth graders assembled and wired the frames. Sixth graders then carefully inserted the beeswax foundation on which the bees will build their comb for honey storage and brood.
We set the assembled boxes and frames on their stands near the entrance to the school, and on Wednesday night of the next week, our bees arrived. Two nucleus colonies – complete with a queen and thousands of bees for each hive – spent the night in their waxy cardboard boxes on the hive stands. In the morning, Jess Foltz suited up and transferred the frames – crawling with beautiful, healthy honeybees, into their newly painted boxes. They seemed to settle right in, taking exploratory flights and returning to the hive as expected.
Many thanks to all the students and teachers and all of those in the Powhatan community who worked together to welcome honey bees back to our campus.
A special thank you to Ron Clevenger for his expert advice on equipment and beekeeping, and to Mrs. Foltz for taking care of our new bees.
Thanks, as well, to T’ai Roulston for sharing his expertise on solitary bees.
Thanks to Bert Martin for his enthusiasm about learning to keep our bees and all of his help with construction.
Thanks to Alice Rodway for her creativity in the art room, helping the 4th graders create gorgeous bee boxes.
Thanks to all of the teachers who gave up class time and lent their energy to this project.