In April, Members of the San Francisco Beekeepers Association helped LLA’s Ecology teacher Karuna Schweig install a beehive of Italian honey bees in the native plants area of LLA’s organic garden.
“There are so many valuable lessons I can do around the bee hive,” Schweig said, including the teaching about the process of pollination and “the cycle of plants, pesticides, colony collapse, and the delicate balance of ecosystems.”
So far, Schweig and the students have fed the bees, planted more flowers for them, studied the bees’ role in food production and the cycle of plants, and observed their activities to note new patterns in daily behavior.
Signs of them happily settling in, Schweig said, “ include developing regular fly patterns to and from the hive, eating their sugar water (which sustains them until they locate pollen source,) and watching to see if they begin returning to the hive with pollen laden legs.”
While some students have been nervous about the new members of the garden, Schwieg said, most are eager to interact with the colony.
“They’re really docile,” Williams said about the bees. “They don’t get aggravated at us unless we irritate either them, their hive, or their food source.”
“In the garden I feel like one of the most important lessons is for students to be exposed to, and become more comfortable with, nature,” Schwieg added, explaining that she wants students in her classes to move “into a place of questions rather than fear of the unknown.”
Williams and the garden students are looking forward to suiting up to work at the hive, and LLA has ordered additional beekeeping suits so they can learn to tend to the bees safely. Schweig explained that many students have expressed fascination “that we rely so heavily on bees for our own food production.”
“Without bees, we would not be here, at all,” Williams said. “If all bees died, we wouldn’t have our meat supply, our grass, our plants, or our flowers.”