The dream of the beekeeper group takes flight

A new apiary creates a buzz like a home for bees in Halyburton Park. Since bees play an important role in every aspect of the ecosystem, the New Hanover County Beekeepers Association (NHCBA) is working to ensure that bees are welcome in the area.

Recently, the NHCBA has achieved a long-term goal of setting up an apiary or apiary at Halyburton Park, 4099 S. 17th St. This is a place where beehives are kept and managed by a beekeeper.

“Ten years ago it was a common question, ‘Why don’t we put a beehive in a public place?’” said Susan Warwick, NHCBA president. “It’s always been a dream, a goal that was there.”

Through a partnership with the City of Wilmington, the University of North Carolina Wilmington and local Eagle Scout candidates, the apiary has become a reality in driving efforts to conserve pollinators and provide educational opportunities for residents, officials said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on September 12 at 4pm to officially open the apiary in Halyburton Park to the public.

Warwick said Mayor Bill Saffo has pledged to be a part of the event, as well as some members of Wilmington City Council, the Boy Scouts who helped build the apiary, the artists who painted the design on the boxes, and NHCBA- members.

“It’s time to celebrate 12 years of a dream,” Warwick said.

After the ceremony, a small reception will be held in the park’s auditorium.

Warwick donated a hive of her own bees, which are now housed in a bee box painted by artist Cathy Poulos, and another hive saved by the City of Wilmington tree crew will now live in a bee box painted by artist Robert Holst.

Ryan Sproull and Oliver Anguish built a beehive, a bench for the hives to sit on, and a protective fencing around the apiary for their Eagle Scout projects.

NHCBA members donated rocks and ground covers to complete the beekeeping project.

Through the Bee City USA certification program, Wilmington was officially designated the 10th Bee City in America in June 2015, a designation that represents an honor and a responsibility.

“As part of that certification, there is a commitment to maintain habitats for pollinators,” said Andy Fairbanks, recreation supervisor at Halyburton Park. “Having a public apiary ties into our work to support and encourage pollinators. This ties in with all the work we’ve done before.”

According to the Bee City USA website, “pollinators affect our lives every day in a variety of ways, including being responsible for about a third of the food and drink we consume. The value of crop pollination in the US is estimated to be between $18 and $27 billion a year”

This partnership with the community was a “no-brainer,” according to Fairbanks, and will both promote pollinators and educate the general public about the importance of bees.

The apiary is located close to the events center in Halyburton Park and will be used for programming and education. There are currently limited signs, but additional projects will include interpretive and educational signs as part of the completed project.

Part of the agreement between the NHCBA and the City of Wilmington includes a minimum of four educational programs per year.

“It’s an opportunity for the general public to learn about honey bees, see hives in an urban area and observe them and learn about a honey harvest so they can enjoy and experience that,” Fairbanks said. “It’s a great opportunity for children and families to be a part of that process.”

Founded in 2010, the NHCBA has a close-knit membership of about 100 members committed to community education and outreach, Warwick said.

The NHCBA will use the apiary to continue its mission to promote awareness of the importance of bees by offering classes and events for educational purposes. According to the NHCBA website, “Bee School” classes are held regularly to help people learn about “the most important insect in the world.”

“There are great educational and training opportunities with beekeeping,” Warwick said, “and these beehives will be great tools for us to use.”

Warwick said “a third of our plates” depend on bees. The vegetables people eat, as well as the food fed to livestock, depend on pollination.

Another aspect of the “Bee City USA” certification is to promote the need for the community to plant bee-friendly flowers and plants to ensure the health of the bee population.

“It’s very important for people to plant different things because bees need variety in their diet,” explains Warwick. “Bees will fly 3 to 5 miles for a food source.”

NHCBA members will share the care of the boxes with a thorough inspection checklist to ensure the health of the boxes.

“It’s set up as an educational exhibit in Halyburton Park and it’s a teaching moment for those who don’t know much about bees,” said David Bridgers, master craftsman beekeeper and one of the founding members of the NHCBA.

Warwick, who started keeping bees as a hobby about 10 years ago, went from knowing very little about bees to her master beekeeper certification.

“You think you know something about bees, but it just surprised me. I was captivated, amazed, captivated. I had no idea,” Warwick said. “It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done, by far.”

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