A Pre-K to Grade 12 Independent Quaker Day School Serving the Greater Durham-Chapel Hill Area

Bee Project

We are excited to welcome honeybees to our CFS campus in April 2019!

Bees are hard working creatures that are very important to our ecosystem, and some scientists are warning they are in danger of disappearing. These important little creatures are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. Many delicious fruits, vegetables, and nuts grew only with the help of bees pollinating the plants. With support from a Bright Ideas Education Grant from Piedmont Electric, we were able to purchase equipment and two hives of honey bees (one each for Lower and Middle School).

A beekeeper needs to be a good observer, they must have a good understanding of the biology and life cycles of the animal, and they must be creative in problem solving when they are faced with choices. Along with the global issues that are affecting honeybees and the importance that they have in both agriculture and the environment, they comprise a rich topic to explore and a wonderful way to get students to engage with the natural world. By observing these small creatures, students will get a glimpse into how the hive works together in unique ways to survive and grow.

The goal of this project is to provide our students with hands-on experience of caring for bees, developing in them an appreciation for the important role honeybees play in our environment. Through this project students will gain awareness of the importance of making space for pollinators in our community. Bees can travel up to two miles to collect pollen and nectar. Our campus and the surrounding area is full of plants just waiting to be visited by our bees.

Learning Goals

Students from the Lower School and Middle School will have hands-on experiences with living bees and a working hive with the learning goals at the heart of the project:

  • Students will learn directly about honey bee biology and how that is used to make informed choices about hive management.
  • Students will collect data about the bees and measure the results of any changes that result from management and environmental factors like weather and what is flowering in the local habitat.
  • Students will work directly with these animals to learn about their behaviors and how careful management is required to keep them healthy and productive.
  • Students will observe bees as they move through their life cycles, from egg to larvae to worker bee, and how the bees interact with other organisms (pollinator plants and other animals).
  • Students will learn about beekeeping as a hobby and as a profession and the importance of honey bees in North Carolina for agriculture and honey production.

In preparation for the installation students learned the basics about a honeybee hive and practiced a hive installation without the bees. Instructional materials like bee biology posters and visits from local beekeepers will help the students in this learning process. Once the hives are installed in April 2019, teachers from the Lower School and Middle School science classes will take students to help with hive inspections and keep notes on hive observations. Students will be responsible for recording and sharing their notes in a digital online format as well as in notebooks. Over the summer volunteers and teachers will maintain the hives until the students return. Students can also assist with honey extraction when possible.

Care and Safety

Please walk over to the hives, enjoy seeing bees at work, and discover their beauty. If you would like a closer look at the hives, please contact Tommy Johnson and Jenni Scoggin. As you visit the hives here are three things to consider:

  1. Stand to the side of a hive to avoid the flight path of bees as they come in and out of the hive and fly forward
  2. Resist the temptation to swat at bees as they come close to you. Swatting agitates them and they can become more defensive
  3. Should the bees become curious about you, simply step away for a few moments

Become A Bee Observer!

You will be able to see all sorts of behavior on the outside of the hive. See if you can see any of the following:

Bees carry pollen with their hind legs. Look for the color of the pollen bundle they may be carrying.

  • Guard bees hang out at the hive entrance. They may greet bees that have been foraging for nectar or pollen. They may also be the ones who check you out if you get too close for their comfort.
  • House bees work hard to keep the inside of the hive clean. You may see them emerge from the entrance with dead bees or dead larvae. You might even see dead bees piled on the ground at the entrance.
  • Bearding usually occurs in the hot summer evenings when the foraging bees are back from a day of flights. They will clump together on the outside corner or entrance of the hive.
  • Washboarding can be seen throughout the day and evening in the summer. Bees are all on the front of the hive in a single layer (unlike the clumping in bearding). Look closely and you will notice how they seem to rock to and fro. No one knows what they are doing or why they do it; it is part of the honey bee mystique.
  • House bees will fan at the entrance of the hive. They are circulating air to keep the hive cool and ripen honey by reducing the water content in the nectar.
  • Orientation flights can occur anytime, but are often seen in the late afternoons. New foragers will walk up to the front of the hive and lift off facing the hive. Sometimes the flight pattern is a noticeable figure eight.
  • Swarming is a potential in the springtime. If you are lucky enough to see a swarm, let the Duke Campus Farm staff know. Bees will be pouring out the front entrance, flying all around, and the hum they make is unmistakable.

While here you might get stung. If so, don’t panic. Try to remove the stinger by scraping the stinger out (don’t pinch it out; this actually pushes the venom in). There will be swelling and redness (that is normal) and this may last for a couple of days before receding. If you experience any shortness of breath as a result of a sting, please seek immediate medical attention. First aid kits, including epipens, are located in the Lower School, Center, and Middle School buildings. All teachers who take students to visit the hives will have first aids kits.

The Buzz

Beekeeping has been referred to as “farming for intellectuals” because of the complexity of thinking that is involved in caring for them and working with them.