Two queen bees live at Mount Sentinel Secondary these days, appropriately named Beyonce and Lorde after the pop music stars. And as long as you stay calm and don’t mess too much with their hives, which each host approximately 60,000 workers, there’s no reason they should sting you.
“It’s exhilarating to encourage teenagers to get involved with bees,” parent supervisor and bee expert Nette Lack told the Star during a visit last week. “But I also have to get them to understand they don’t need to fear. The more you know about bees, you won’t have to be afraid of them.”
On Friday afternoon Lack visited the hives with students Mikah Lecuyer Morison, Morgan Koorbatoff, Hannah Abbey and Adriana Burton, all members of the school’s green team. Together they’ve been working on developing their courtyard into an outdoor classroom and garden as part of their school’s ongoing sustainability initiatives.
Since bees are dying off at an alarming rate, they figure it’s about time they do something.
“People don’t really seem to care that bees are dying and I find that upsetting,” said Koorbatoff. “We want to be respectful to the bees and the environment.”
That means getting to know them.
“Nette opened up the beehives and we got to see larva in the making,” said Lecuyer Morison, who watched his friend try on the suit and even handle a section of the hive. Together they examined the intricate combs, which were covered in happily buzzing insects.
“It’s so cool. I had never seen anything like that before.”
During the exploration with Lack, she asked the kids whether they understood why the bees were doing a “waggle dance” and also why they repeatedly stuck their heads into the comb holes.
The answers: the dance lets other bees know food is nearby, while the head-dunking is meant to clean out a space for the queen to lay her eggs. And that’s just the beginning of what the students hope to learn from them.
This initiative was started at last year’s first annual sustainability day, and community members Lack and Axel Krause have devoted a bunch of time to making it a reality.
“Marj Jmaeff is the real energy behind this,” said the green team’s teacher sponsor Danny Leeming.
“The bees are just the first step in creating a beautiful outdoor community classroom. We are lucky to live in a community where when we have crazy ideas there are lots of people to support us.”
Principal Glen Campbell can’t wait to see what the kids come up with next.
“The kids planned everything from the ground up. The kids are working with the community, the school district, the staff,” he said. “This school’s been pretty remarkable over the years, but there’s no doubt this current population is capturing a wider audience, and the staff are getting directly involved.”
“Is it engaging the kids? Absolutely? Is it creating a wider audience for these issues? Absolutely. It’s been remarkable to see how some kids who don’t normally show that engagement or initiative suddenly come to the forefront on some of these things.”
He likes that these projects include everyone.
“This really brings in a wider audience than a drama or a sports project, because this draws from all walks, all niches within the community and asks us all to work together.”
The school plans to collect and sell honey from the hives.