Bee Excited: A Sweet New Sensation at CVU!

Mr. Bennett Townley

Have you heard the news? CVU is buzzing with bees! Not only are they used to help pollinate CVU’s vegetable garden and the twelve apple trees in the field next to the ponds, but the bees also offer Natural Resources students a hands-on learning experience as they learn how to harvest honey. Honeymaking gives these students a more engaging and potentially money-making experience as long as no one gets stung!

The bees arrived in early May of 2018 after CVU Senior Katelyn Wong was so inspired about saving bees and educating people on how endangered they are that she drafted the initiative to bring bees to CVU. “The bee population has been endangered for a good amount of time, and it seemed like although we as a culture are aware of this, it wasn’t an action item on our agenda.” Wong hopes that throughout the years, students who are not just in the Natural Resources program but in all classes can learn about the responsibility of beekeeping as well as how they are endangered and what we as a society can do to help.

Oh Honey photograph, courtesy of Bennett Townley

Image courtesy of Bennett Townley

Wong said an interesting fact about locating a hive is that the bees will transition better to the new location if it is within a radius of a couple of miles from the old hive’s location.

A shipment of European Honey Bees was delivered to Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) from the North Woods Apiary in Westfield, Vermont, which is located up in the Northeast Kingdom in early May of 2018.

According to Dave Trevithick, the CVU Natural Resources teacher, the bees arrived in wax-coated cardboard boxes and were poured into the hives that we currently see next to the poultry in the CVU schoolyard.

Each season rears different flowers which enhance the specific varieties of honey each time. Trevithick stated, “There is not only a color difference in the honey harvested in the autumn versus the spring, but also the taste is very different.” According to Trevithick, honey that is harvested in the spring has a much lighter color and a very delicate taste, since it is made from white clover flowers. Honey that is harvested in the autumn is much darker and has a much stronger and more robust flavor since the bees have eaten.

Trevithick also wants to harvest beeswax someday down the road to make candles. He said that the problem was that we would need the bees to make more wax since the bees did not have enough time to establish a good comb structure because they are virtually brand new.

Trevithick said that even a short flight out of the hive proves difficult for the bees because of the biting cold of a Vermont winter. As a result, most of the bees stay in the hives and only a few wander out.

Safety is very important when keeping bees. As a result, Trevithick suits up with a long sleeve shirt, thick gloves, and puts a mesh veil over his head to protect him from getting stung by the bees. Trevithick explained that European Honey Bees are not aggressive. He said he has been stung only a few times on his hands, but he ended up being fine.

Trevithick utilizes special procedures to open up the hives, harvest the honey, and extract the honey from the combs. The first task is to smoke the hive with a bellow powered smoker. CVU guidance counselor Russ Aceto said, “Smoking a colony of bees produces the same effect that eating too much at Thanksgiving does to you. The smoking causes the bees to eat a lot of honey which then causes them to be more ‘sleepy’ and docile.”

Aceto explained that he then places the combs into an extractor which operates like a huge centrifuge to extract the honey. The high-velocity spinning causes the honey to fly out of the honeycombs and collect in the base until he opens the spout at the bottom of the centrifuge. Trevithick filters the honey and then bottles it up in glass bottles.

Anyone can buy the honey if they donate $9.00 to Dave Trevithick’s Natural Resources class.

According to Wong, allowing the CVU Natural Resources Class to care for bees is a sweet experience since it offers many skills and opportunities for students to learn about the connections between humans, bees, and nature itself.