Posted by: csdailyblog | March 14, 2010

Sustainability Service Team Gears Up for Spring

Andy places the last piece on a hive frame.

Once the sun starts to make more regular appearances, the clocks “spring forward,” and the sound of running water (melting snow) fills the air, you know the spring peepers can’t be far behind. Some of the best rewards of a Northwoods winter are the excitement and rising spirits that accompany the spring thaw. With welcome signs of spring all around us, Conserve School students and staff on the Sustainability Campus Service Team have been busy preparing for the annual rebirth of the beehives and for the spring sap run.

Science Teacher Robert Eady, Field Instructor Jeff Nemec, and students Jaclyn and Casey assemble frames for the Conserve School apiary.

Every year the team experiments with a different method of keeping the bees alive over the winter despite the extended periods of cold weather during the northern Wisconsin winter. It’s difficult to create just the right temperature and humidity level so that the bees stay warm, but not so moist that they succumb to disease. This year it appears as though, for the first time, we’ve succeeded in keeping at least one of the colonies alive by moving the bee boxes into the garden shed in the late fall and then opening up the garden shed periodically on warm winter days to allow the bees to buzz around outdoors and to bring fresh air into the shed. In the photographs, you can see students hammering together new frames for the hives. The frames provide the scaffolding on which the bees build their comb. Soon the students will move the hives out of the shed and set them up outdoors. Several times this spring the team will feed the bees sugar water to hold them until enough flowers start to bloom.

Honey bee populations have had a rough time in recent years, with many hives dying off suddenly due to colony collapse. See the TED Talk “A Plea for Bees” to learn more about the honey bee crisis and how small beekeeping operations across the country, like ours, may provide the solution.

Field Instructor Jeff, student Eddy, and Director of Outdoor Programs and Dean of Residential Life Cathy Palmer work on cleaning the sap collection pails.

We’ve had surprisingly warm weather for March and no doubt the sap is running. This coming week, the Sustainability Team and other interested Conserve School staff and students will tap over 100 trees and begin the time-consuming but rewarding process of boiling the sap down into maple syrup. Team members prepared for the process last week by insepcting equipment and washing collection buckets in the school kitchen.

Stay tuned for more stories and photos on making maple syrup at Conserve School.

Mary Anna

Student Megan has some fun beating a rhythm on an upturned collection pail before she loads it into the dishwasher.

Jennifer concentrates on gluing together pieces of a frame for the bee hive.

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