Nurturing Our Beeyard: Behind the Buzz of 577’s Hives

Did you know that worldwide, there are over 350,000 species of pollinators crucial for the pollination of flowering plants, trees, and agricultural crops? Among these, bees stand out as one of the most recognized. Surprisingly, out of nearly 20,000 bee species, only seven are classified as honeybees!

As an environmental organization dedicated to promoting conservation practices, sustainable methods, and organic gardening, we hope to provide visitors with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for plants and nature. Pollinators like the honeybee are a vitally important species that sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce. Without the actions of pollinators, agricultural economies, our food supply, and surrounding landscapes would collapse.

THANK YOU, PERRYSBURG GARDEN CLUB!

With this mission in mind, we are thrilled to announce 577 was recently awarded a generous grant from the Perrysburg Garden Club to support our growing beekeeping program! PGC’s grant funded the cost of materials for our two new hives, as well as protective beekeeper gear for staff, volunteers, and class participants. The PGC grant will allow us to teach classes designed to introduce participants to the diverse and interconnected workings of a honeybee hive, exploring the lifecycle and jobs of bees, and review what a year of natural beekeeping entails for those who are interested in learning more about the species and how to protect dwindling bee populations. We are so grateful for PGC’s support. They have been a longtime partner of 577 and have been beautifying Perrysburg since 1933. Thank you to their members for all the good work they are doing (and supporting) in our community!

SPOTLIGHT ON 577’S VOLUNTEER BEEKEEPER

In light of our commitment to beekeeping and environmental education, we are delighted to introduce Sara Grunberg, our dedicated volunteer beekeeper and community instructor. Sara has played a pivotal role in the recent resurgence of our beekeeping efforts, bolstered by the invaluable support of the Perrysburg Garden Club’s generous grant.

Born and raised in the Toledo area, Sara earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from the University of Dayton and later went on to complete a master’s at the University of Charleston in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. While in grad school, she worked on a student-run farm and was asked to be their beekeeper, where she took a certification course and managed five to seven hives at a time. Sara had no prior experience working with bees and was terrified, but after opening her first hive, she says it was “one of the most fascinating experiences ever,” and was “completely taken by the awe of them.

After completing her master’s, she worked as a horticulturist at the Charleston Parks Conservancy and worked to obtain funding to establish a hive in one of their community gardens, as well as completed a four-month apprenticeship at Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd, Virginia. Through her experiences, she learned the ins and outs of beekeeping through a biodynamic lens, like how to support local pollinators in creating habitats, planting forage they can access year-round, and especially focusing on the honeybee.

After returning to the Toledo area after school, she was introduced to 577 by a long-time friend, a resident of Perrysburg. Sara was searching for beekeeping opportunities and reached out to us to offer a helping hand in any way; she then began to volunteer with the horticulture team, and eventually helped with the transition of beekeepers after ours was stepping down from their position.

Because of Sara’s deep knowledge, experience, and appreciation for bees, she started teaching classes as a community instructor at 577, educating the community about these magnificent and mighty creatures. In September of 2023, Sara taught her first Honeybees 101 class, which encompasses the fundamentals of honeybees in a conversational setting, allowing her to learn from her students just as much as they are there to learn from her. “Being able to share a small sliver of my knowledge with the community fills my heart with joy,” says Sara, “I think I’m the ‘lead learner’ and the bees are the ‘lead teachers’.” In her Beekeeping 101 class, she brought a hands-on component where students have had the experience of many beekeeping tasks first-hand.

One of Sara’s goals in teaching her classes is that her students leave with the inspiration and motivation to become advocates and allies for the bees, raising awareness on how we can best support our flying friends. “Due to all the challenges bees face, such as pesticide use, warming climate patterns, and habitat destruction, they are facing a major period of evolution. I want people to realize they are not creatures to be feared; stinging is their last resort of protection!” Sara explains.

Outside of work, Sara loves working with her two beehives at home, reading, gardening, making herbal remedies, taking walks around metroparks, baking sourdough bread, supporting local restaurants, and connecting with her friends and family.

THE RETURN OF BEES AT 577

On April 13, 2024, bees returned with the help of Sara and her class of bee enthusiasts. They used the knowledge they had learned this spring, including the basics of beekeeping like best practices, equipment needed, where to get your bees, hive anatomy and set up, to get hands-on helping with the installation of a new queen and bees into a hive they had helped to build.

Then, on Saturday, June 1, 2024, we welcomed our second hive to the bee yard. Sara and 577 staff were thrilled to greet fellow beekeepers Caitlin and Eileen, who arrived with a special delivery: a rescued swarm! They generously donated this lively swarm and helped us set up our second outdoor hive. After the installation, community members from Sara’s beekeeping class joined us, rolling up their sleeves to inspect our first hive that was installed in April.

They learned how to perform a mite count and checked the overall health of the hive by examining the number of worker bees, brood pattern, and more. We’re happy to report that the hive is thriving! The new hives are located in the new beeyard in the parking lot next to Virginia’s House. As is tradition, Sara and the class named the thriving hives – “Virginia” (on the left) and the sweet “Alyssum” (on the right).

Along with the successful introduction of “Virginia” and “Alyssum” to our outdoor beeyard, Sara helped bring bees back to the indoor observation hive in the Bee Room. With great care and enthusiasm, Sara introduced a new queen bee and hive to the indoor setup, marking her first experience with an indoor hive. The process of tending to this indoor hive has been a fascinating journey, allowing us to witness firsthand the intricate workings of these remarkable creatures.

As the hive continues to thrive, we eagerly anticipate the emergence of a new queen, following the natural process of swarming observed earlier this week. This phenomenon serves as an educational opportunity, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of bees as they undergo essential stages of their life cycle. We remain hopeful for the successful establishment of a new queen and look forward to continuing our stewardship of these vital pollinators at 577.

A LOOK AHEAD

Looking for a deeper understanding of bees and beekeeping? Keep an eye out for upcoming sessions of Sara’s Honeybees 101 and Beekeeping 101 classes, set to take place later this summer or early fall. Plus, don’t miss the opportunity to meet Sara in person at one of our Music in the Gardens events, where she’ll be on hand to share her expertise and answer any bee-related queries. Stay tuned for more details!

A heartfelt thank you goes out to Perrysburg Garden Club, Caitlin, Eileen, Sara, and our dedicated community beekeepers for their unwavering commitment and tireless efforts.

Here’s to a summer brimming with golden honey and buzzing with the joy of thriving bee colonies!

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Music in the Gardens ~ Saturday, June 8

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TSA String Quartet will be playing classical tunes from 11am to 1pm, followed by the enchanting harp music of Rebecca Swett from 2pm to 3pm. And as a special treat, Swanky Scoops will be there with delicious ice cream! Plus, select areas of Virginia’s House will be open for tours and activities from 11am to 3pm.

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577 Staff Spotlight: Isabelle Tucker

Isabelle is one of 577’s Program Coordinators. She’s a member of the Education department where she teaches fine art classes and has a key role in coordinating operations in the Welcome Center and Curiosity Shop. Learn more about her journey at 577 and her upcoming classes!

Join us for Music in the Gardens on Saturday, July 13, from 11am to 3pm. Events are free, family-friendly, and rain or shine.

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