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Natural Science Lesson at SMS

posted Apr 5, 2021, 7:49 AM by Lee Stephens   [ updated Apr 7, 2021, 10:14 AM ]
Beekeeper Jeff Blackwell works to capture bee swarm at SMS
Science teachers often spend hours planning carefully-crafted lessons for their students each day. However, sometimes, science just happens before our eyes with no advanced planning or warning. Right before Spring Break, just such an unexpected lesson occurred when nature and science came together beautifully at Seneca Middle School in an amazing display for students and staff alike.

For several years, Seneca Middle has had an observation bee hive located in the Media Center for students to view throughout the school year. The SMS hive was thriving but apparently recently grew too big for its “home.” Thus, one morning just after the official start of Spring, the hive’s queen and about one-half of the hive’s worker bees (approximately 10,000 bees) left the hive and swarmed, gathering together in a group of vines in the Media Center courtyard. After a quick phone call to local beekeeper Jeff Blackwell, who is affiliated with the Bee Cause Project, which installs observation hives in schools, he arrived to “capture” the swarm and safely take the now-separate hive to a new location. As he worked, he explained not only each step he was taking but also the purpose behind the bees’ actions.

Despite the connotation of the word “swarm” as a group of angry bees, it turns out that bees are actually their most docile when swarming, all because they have gorged themselves on honey before leaving the hive. Further, even though the queen has left the original hive, it is not left without a queen for long. Prior to leaving, the queen lays two or more queen eggs so that at least one may successfully hatch and become her replacement in the original hive. For the bees that have left the hive, while swarming on the vines, a small number of bees are sent out as scouts to locate a suitable location for their new “home.” Once a suitable new home is located, usually within a day and within a two-mile radius, the swarming bees follow the scouts’ signals to their new home. Thus, Blackwell hurried to transfer the swarm to a traditional bee hive box and relocate it beyond the two-mile zone before they could get the signal from the scout bees and move on to their newly scouted-out home.

The bees remaining in the original hive should now groom the new queen once she hatches and continue their daily work in and out of the hive. As Spring marches along and brings with it plenty of additional food and pollen sources, their cycle of life should march along with it, all the while giving the students and staff at Seneca Middle School the opportunity to see, if not the unusual WOW-inducing science of a bee swarm, then at least the usual daily activities of a group of bees working together to live successfully as individuals and as a community

Bee swarm on vinesSwarming bees enter hive boxBlackwell observes transfer progress
 Bees swarm in vines in Media Center courtyard Bees gather at hive box entrance Blackwell observes transfer progress
Blackwell smokes bees to encourage transfer
Blackwell continues to smoke bees
Blackwell watches transfer progress after smoking
 Blackwell smokes bees to encourage transferBlackwell continues to smoke bees  Blackwell watches transfer progress after smoking 
Blackwell with bee smoker
Bees continue entering hive box
Blackwell prepares screen to cap seal hive box for transportation to new location
Blackwell with bee smokerBees continue entering hive box Blackwell prepares screen to seal hive box