By Matthew Kent | For the Daily Journal

Beekeeping has created quite a buzz among students in one classroom at St. Bartholomew Catholic School.

Seventh-graders in science teacher Bridget Steele’s classroom got a firsthand look at the school’s beehive located off Home Avenue as part of a science lesson about the importance of bees.

The beehive, which is home to 30,000 honeybees, has been on St. Bartholomew property for four years.

Steele, along with two of her students, wore white protective suits as Steele pointed out different features of the beehive to her students and how the caretakers tend to it.

The protective suits, which are owned by the school, are designed to protect individuals from being stung and include the familiar netted hood and coverings for hands and feet.

His classmate, Max Nash, said he was nervous when the beehive lid was removed, prompting the bees to scatter. However, he said he is considering going into beekeeping, noting that the beekeeping experience in Steele’s class was his first time getting up close to a bee hive.

“It was fun, and it’s good for the environment,” he said. “Honey bees are obviously endangered, so it’s good to keep hives going.”

Steele said the initial thought of having a beehive on the campus would be difficult but eventually gained support after assurances were made that safety precautions would be in place through the use of protective suits.

The beehive is insulated in the winter to protect the bees from the cold weather, according to Steele.

She got her start in beekeeping after doing research on colony collapse disorder and eventually received the support from Clem Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church.

“Those powerful pollinators are an important part that we need to protect. It is our responsibility to understand their importance. … I want (the students) to understand the delicate balance of nature…”
—Bridget Steele

Colony collapse disorder occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection website.

“Those powerful pollinators are an important part that we need to protect,” Steele said. “It is our responsibility to understand their importance.”

Honeybees help pollinate crops, which are eventually processed into food. The beehive also helps generate revenue for St. Bartholomew. Students were able to sell 75 pounds of honey during its fall festival, with the proceeds going back into the school’s science program, Steele said.

The honey was harvested at the hive’s location by Graham’s Bee Works, a company based in Morgantown, Steele said. Students also will make bee balm from the wax inside the hive this winter. The bee balm is produced from wax from the beehive and is soothing to a person’s face and hands, Steele said.

She also hopes students will recognize the importance that bees have in society.

“I want them to understand the delicate balance of nature and how important the smallest things like bees are to our bigger ecosystem,” Steele said.

Humans are responsible for protecting and maintaining that and beekeeping is one way to help, she said. She added that she hopes to educate parents to help them become educated as well.

Steele said she wants to inspire her fellow students to become beekeepers themselves, noting that two former students who are now Columbus North High School freshman that have their own hives as a result of their beekeeping experience at St. Bartholomew.

She recommended reaching out to beekeeping organizations or performing online research for individuals who are interested in getting started.

Steele also said she wants her students to know that bees aren’t as scary as some may perceive them to be, pointing out the value of a hands-on learning experience.

“Even if they’re not scientists, even if they don’t choose a science field, they can still be inspired by the natural world,” she said.