When Johnny Lozano knocked on the side of a white wooden box, the sound of bees swarming filled the air in the Thayer Library/Media Center. When he knocked louder a second time, the bees grew louder, too.

“They sound angry, don’t they?” said Lozano, a member of the Fort Wood Area Beeks (beekeepers).

While no bees were actually inside the box, Lozano and his fellow Fort Wood Area Beeks use the amplified swarming sounds to remind students to respect bees’ homes and that bees can sting.

During summer school, Thayer Elementary students in grades 2-5 learned about bees, their habitats, their structure, including their scientific body parts such as their head, abdomen and thorax, and the importance of the queen.

Other activities included tasting honey, trying out a beekeepers protective clothing and veil and seeing the tools a beekeeper uses to enter a hive. Students learned that all new queen bees are marked with a specific color based on the year when they are introduced to a hive.  The color – used internationally – shows the year the queen was born in and helps beekeepers more quickly spot the queen when inspecting the hive. Bee queens born in 2018 are marked with red. 

While students were fascinated with learning more about bees, the highlight came when they were allowed to peer into a bee hive. Students searched through the glass-enclosed container for the queen bee and worker bees. 

“They were so excited to see the hives,” said Debbie Akery, Thayer’s art teacher and an avid beekeeper. “Even though the bees are behind glass for safety reasons, students can still hear the bees. An active hive emits a distinctive sound.”

The Fort Wood Area Beeks group brings environmental enthusiasm to the art of beekeeping. Its mission is to expand the honey bee population by improving the overall health and safety of native bees by educating aspiring and beginner beeks. Experienced beeks provide guidance on the basics and essentials of beekeeping, from getting started to harvesting the very first batch of honey and beyond.

The presenters included Cheryl Hinchman, Johnny Lozano, Richard Le Blanc, Darryl Akery and Debbie Akery.