Honey Bees a Sweet Addition to Environmental Curriculum

Honey Bees a Sweet Addition to Environmental Curriculum

A growing number of honey bees at Southeastern Regional has been a tremendous boon to both the local environment as well as students in the Environmental and Biotechnology Department this year.

The school purchased the bees in the spring of 2017 after the department’s teachers developed a beekeeping curriculum.  Since then, students have learned all about beekeeping, including how to don and doff a beekeeper’s suit, and how to inspect the bees’ hives to make sure their colonies are healthy.

Tamea Smith of Brockton, who will be a junior next school year, is one of a select group of students who is focusing on beekeeping in her shop.  She and the other student beekeepers filled out an application and went through a mock interview process to get the job.     Since then, she’s learned all about the bees’ roles and habitat.

“I used to be afraid of bees, but now I feel very comfortable.  I know their house and their habits, and they are used to me.  It’s like a giant family, and they are like my kids,” she said.

Her classmate, Paulo Santos of Brockton, is also specializing in beekeeping at school, and in fact, would like to be a state beekeeping inspector in the future.  He is very impressed with the impact that bees have on the environment, and he would like to help maintain a healthy bee population.

“They are very strong, yet very fragile at the same time, so it is important to check them for diseases and to see how their hives are going.  I know how to check for the queen bee and the babies, and whether the colony has any diseases.  I also check the honey comb’s structure and whether or not the queen has enough food,” he said

Their teacher, Greg Gaudreau, is tending the bees this summer with the help of student volunteers.  He said the bees, which are housed on school grounds next to Hockomock Swamp, are in an ideal spot.

“The Hockomock Swamp is one of the largest conservation areas in southeastern Massachusetts.  It is a fantastic foraging space for the bees, and they in turn help to pollinate the local plants,” he said.

The school originally purchased 60,000 bees, in four colonies, and now the population has increased to five colonies.  The bees live in hives that are primarily made out of wooden boxes, with two different designs – a Top Bar and Langstroth — that were built by students in the Carpentry, Precision Machinery, and Metal Fabrication shops.

This spring, the students introduced two swarm boxes (also built by carpentry students) to their bee yard to help attract another colony of bees.   Soon afterwards, a swarm of wild honey bees started nesting in one of the boxes, and the students then transferred the bees to a permanent hive.

“They’ve started to learn about propagation and management techniques to make more hives,” Mr. Gaudreau said.

Perhaps the sweetest benefit is the honey the bees make, which comes from a mixture of wildflowers and clover.  The students also have harvested the honeycombs, which culinary students served as garnishes in the school restaurant.  Mr. Gaudreau keeps a variety of samples at his shop for the students and staff to sample, and he plans to have even more next school year.

“We’ll hopefully have a big honey harvest in September when the students come back,” he said.

By:  Candace Hall