ASHLAND, Ohio – Does it make sense for FFA students to keep bees at school?
Mapleton High School FFA adviser Dean Frank didn’t think so. He lumped bees, hornets and wasps into one big, undifferentiated category as things that are unpleasant to have around because they sting.
Frank, however, was overruled by his students, who expressed a lot of interest in learning about beekeeping when he brought the idea to them last spring.
Now, Frank said, he is beginning to understand what complex, interesting creatures bees really are and he has overcome his initial fear of the bees.
With one honey crop harvested and all 20 pints sold from an unadvertised display on the counter of the school office, the Mapleton FFA beekeeping project is off and running.
Frank said he expects the project will expand. When the first hive has reached a maximum size, he said, the natural course of things would be to start another hive.
“I guess we will have to try to keep them from swarming for as long as we can, and then establish another colony,” he said.
Frank said he has all 80 FFA students involved in the project, and said he is seeing students turn out that he has never seen before. While the juniors and seniors are able to participate in the direct care of the bees, younger students are learning about bees, hives, and honey and what is involved with beekeeping.
The prevalence of bee mites has made beekeeping a more labor intensive activity than it used to be, he said.
The students have just completed the varroa mite control effort that is recommended just after the honey is harvested.
“We put mite strips along all the openings, and then put a piece of cardboard soaked with cooking grease on the bottom of the hive,” Frank said. “There were several thousand mites on that cardboard.”
It was a sight that convinced the students how important it is to control the mites, and to get them off of the bees.
“It is no longer possible to start a hive and then let it take care of itself,” he said. “We will have to be paying attention to it, and doing something to maintain it several times during the year.”
Foster beekeeping. The beekeeping project was originally the idea of Merle Griffith, a local hobby beekeeper who feels that beekeeping is a dying passion that should be fostered and protected.
What better way to introduce it to a new generation than to make it a project for FFA students.
Griffith asked Frank to attend a meeting of the Tri-County Beekeepers in Wooster. The organization offered to provide Mapleton High School the hive, the bees, and everything the students would need to get into the beekeeping business.
The students at Mapleton agree that raising bees was never something they expected to do. But now that they are into it, they are so involved they wouldn’t give it up.
“We always try to do a couple of things that are different from the ordinary,” Frank said.
“It’s a way to bring students into FFA who aren’t really interested in most of the things we are doing. With the bee hive, I have gotten some students interested in ag science I had never even seen before.”