Students at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School have been hard at work inside and out over the past few years, tending plants and helping with the school’s colony of bees as part of the science department’s classes and the school’s Greenhouse Club. The approximately 10,000 bees already in residence in the school’s hives were joined by a further 2000-3000 last week, when a teacher at the school captured a feral colony that appeared in a tree on the school grounds.
“A pair of boys out for their lunch break on [May 10] were amazed to discover a beachball-sized bundle of bees suspended from a branch of a tree 10 feet off the ground,” says Brandon Borland, one of the teachers involved with beekeeping at CVR. The students alerted a staff member, and word got to Borland who immediately started preparing to capture the swarm. “My first thoughts were actually about which classrooms were going to be able to see … [and have] a front row seat to experience a little applied beekeeping,” he says, explaining that students have watched videos of feral colonies being captured in class and through the Greenhouse Club and that they “considered these videos with great interest and curiosity.”
The teacher says he has captured a swarm before, albeit “never from 10 feet up in a tree,” so he was familiar with the process and the likely behaviour of the bees. “When bees swarm, usually in spring, they are following a queen out of an established colony and are quite preoccupied with bundling themselves around her … the colony is a lot like liquid,” he explains, as the bees “suspend to each other in a mass.”
Borland says that along with fellow teacher Georgios Tsoulfas and caretaker Dave Pilon, he helped to place a box on a stepladder and they “sheared the small section of the branch the colony was attached to and the majority [of the bees] fell in. You don’t need to see the queen to know you have her in the box … the bees climb in to surround her again.”
The Greenhouse Club and the science department have been in a “celebratory mood” since they confirmed that their first hive had survived the winter and, according to Borland, “This second colony has us ecstatic.” He says he sees a lot of concern about the environment and sustainability in his students, and that the school has several ongoing and upcoming projects that will nurture this awareness. “Who knows what will be inspired in the next generation if they are surrounded and exposed to our natural world with these sorts of projects and ideas?”