This post is part of a collaboration between Climate Tracker and Young Reporters for the Environment. This article is the winner of the 2019 competition for 15-18 years old. Authors of the article: Tomas Bartle, Karolína Mathiová, Laura Rinďová. Photos: Matúš Šurin. Country: Slovakia.
Bees’ natural environment is increasingly threatened by air pollution, temperature fluctuations, pesticides and loss of biodiversity. Bees do not have enough food and die. Paradoxically, in cities the selection of flowers and flowering plants is expanding, so bees get closer to people in the cities. It is an opportunity for practical training in bee and apiculture issues. Students at the Jan Adam Rayman Grammar School are very interested in participating in a beekeeping club, but they have come across misapprehension.
URBAN BEES AND BEEKEEPING AT SCHOOL
The idea for this project was first presented at the Jan Adam Rayman Grammar School in Prešov by a new informatics instructor, for whom beekeeping is a passion. The project did not remain in the realm of just thoughts and words. A year ago, the first beehives were placed on school grounds and a beekeeping club was offered for the first time. The leader was the teacher, Mr. Shurin, who described the beginning as follows: “Bees were shipped at the beginning of the season when the weather was still unstable. Bees are more nervous at this time, as the bad weather bothers them. They were also irritated by the move.”
At first there were no problems, and the club began to work. But gradually people started to worry about insect allergies caused by stings. Therefore, information boards with basic facts about urban bees, as well as first-aid steps for insect stings were installed in the school yard. After that the neighbours, Salesians from Don Bosco, visited the principal with a petition for the removal of the hives. Their justification was that they have a playground right over the fence. They felt threatened because some had had bad experiences with bees. There were also concerns within the school itself.
Mgr. Matúš Šurin: “Abroad, in towns, on the outskirts of parks, on railway tracks and in other locations, they set up gardens, plant crops, try to use every available piece of the earth, while here things decay. We have English lawns without flowers in our gardens.”
The school took action to maintain good neighbourly relations. A bee-proof barrier was installed on the fence to meet all the requirements and regulations of beekeepers in residential areas. The students created leaflets about how people should behave near bees. They offered the leaflets to their neighbours, but they refused them. Neither did they accept an invitation to come to see the bees in the school garden along with professional lecture, even with protective equipment.
As the complaints continued, it was suggested the bees be moved even further from the common fence, or that the bee-proof barriers be multiplied. However, these solutions were not optimal because the bees had not gotten used to their surroundings.
Principal Mgr. Viera Kundľová said:
“Dissatisfaction with the bees in the school yard and people’s concerns led me to study “insect bites”. I have read that bees and bumble bees are not “naturally” aggressive, while wasps and hornets are very aggressive and will attack. But people’s concerns were the deciding factor and led me to take the hives away from the school yard.”
BEES IN THE CITY
There are many student beekeepers in the world, even in kindergartens. School apiaries are also starting up in Slovakia, in Bratislava, Zvolen, Lučenec and other locations. Unfortunately, in East Slovakia, namely Prešov, this has not happened yet.
One cannot disagree with Mr. Shurin, that having a beekeeping club in times when there is a huge interest in beekeeping, and where there is no such opportunity, is something amazing. Even if the honeybees’ pollination is not counted as a benefit, the school could have been a trendsetter in keeping urban bees in eastern Slovakia.
Finally, the bees were supposed to be in the garden for only a month and a half, because they should only be there during the season when they can be worked with. Unfortunately, they had to go prematurely.
WILL BEES FIND THEIR WAY BACK?
When solving this difficult situation, everyone agreed with the Assistant Principal Ing. Daniela Bučková: “Children’s health comes first; it is better to avoid a problem than solve it later.”
Young beekeepers also asked the other side – Don Bosco’s Salesians – to express their opinion. In the beginning they were very willing, but when it came to setting a meeting date, they did not respond. Further attempts at contact were futile.
Despite everything, the club is still meeting!
Although the hives have moved to Kendice, where the beekeeping club is run under the patronage of the Slovak Union of Beekeepers, the subject of bees is still being studied at the Jan Adam Rayman Grammar School. In May, an article will be published in the Včelár [Beekeeper] magazine. The club has generated enormous interest and it is at full capacity. The large number of candidates waiting to get in testify to the quality of the club. These are the reasons the school’s management is still considering the possibility of returning bees to the school garden in a way that all parties are satisfied.
Authors of the article: Tomas Bartle, Karolína Mathiová, Laura Rinďová. Photos: Matúš Šurin. Country: Slovakia.