High-five for the Hive Five
Palisade High students are all abuzz about bees
A high school graduation requirement turned into a labor of love for the members of Hive Five.
As part of the International Baccalaureate diploma program offered through Palisade High School, graduating seniors Jared Beshai, Nayeli Contreras, Ellie Driscoll, Marta Morris and Eric Pautsch had to complete a Creativity, Activity, Service project that would challenge them to learn something new with an outcome that could serve the school and community where they live.
They decided to learn more about beekeeping. Hence, the name Hive Five, a name Contreras thought of that was immediately met with approval.
The group wanted to build hives that could be kept in Palisade High School’s outdoor classroom, providing the worker bees with a quick commute to any number of fields and orchards.
Although the Hive Five knew nothing about beekeeping — more on that later — the teenagers were aware bee populations were declining worldwide.
They weren’t aware of the reasons. They just knew the information was out there, so they decided to use their project to bring awareness to the issue within their community and school.
“We want the problem with bees to be in the forefront” of people’s minds, including the minds of students at Palisade High School, Beshai said.
Last year, the group focused first on fundraising for equipment and supplies and learning more about what they needed to do because no one had experience beekeeping.
Morris spent $140 of her own money and hours of her own time at two night classes at Western Colorado Community College to learn more about bees and hives to share the information with her project team.
Morris learned that the prevalent use of pesticides locally can affect bees within a five-mile radius of their hive, potentially killing them, but it’s a tough spot because pesticides can help farmers produce more crops.
The group consulted with local experts and got started on the project, ordering nine pounds of bees for three hives.
“Three swarms isn’t going to save the bee population, but awareness helps,” Beshai said.
One hive was painted like honeycomb (a not-so-subtle message to the occupants), another was made to look like an urban townhome (for the queen, perhaps) and the third was made to look like the Colorado flag (obviously).
Unfortunately, the winter cold killed off two hives, proving how fragile beekeeping can be, particularly for newcomers. The only one that survived is housed in the Colorado-themed hive that currently is kept at Beshai’s home.
“I’ve definitely gotten hooked,” Beshai said of beekeeping. “They are fantastic. I’d find myself in class daydreaming about the bees.”
If he can find a backyard location to keep bees in Houston where he will attend Rice University in the fall, Beshai would like to.
This year, junior Brent Metzler was welcomed into the Hive Five so the seniors had someone to carry on their project.
Metzler is trying to recruit other IB students to take on the project and get the hive moved to the school’s outdoor classroom.
The Hive Five even won an award for Best CAS Project, the group said.
Ultimately, the project was supposed to teach the students more about beekeeping and the importance of bees to the world.
It accomplished all that and more.
“I hated bees,” Contreras said, blaming her hatred on fear. “After watching two of the guys work with them without getting stung” she warmed to the idea of approaching the hives.
The group learned how to handle the hives, the gear to wear while beekeeping and more.
“We wanted (the bees) to further education,” Contreras said.