Hartford Courant – By: Vanessa DeLaTorre | Photos: Cloe Poisson
The hives are alive. Do not make any sudden movements or loud noises. Stick to slow, calm motions and the bees will avoid stinging you.
Well into spring semester, science teacher Jared Lewis goes over these precautions once more in case students feel panicky as the monotonous hum gets louder and angrier atop this three-story parking garage in the city’s Learning Corridor.
“Oh, my God, I’m not ready for this,” says a teenager in short sleeves, half joking as Lewis lifts a sticky frame out of a pair of boxy white hives. Their hives. Worker bees emerge and begin landing on high-schoolers’ uniform shirts and khaki pants, honey-stained gloves, on long hair not covered by the lampshade mesh veils that protect heads and necks.
In Hartford, this high school science class has stirred a real buzz: beekeeping.
Students at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, one of the few public schools in Connecticut to raise bees as part of the curriculum, do more than learn the stages of bee development or how to identify the queen.
They also harvest their own honey that they sell in school and at a local farmers market under the label “Phoenix Honey,” named after the school mascot. Decorative scented candles, in the shapes of hearts, roses, owls, butterflies and maple leaves, are crafted out of homegrown beeswax and placed into holiday gift bags. “Bee-licious” lip balm and hand cream are for sale, too.
The profits — about $9,000 in the past two years, according to Lewis — are invested back into the class to buy more hives and beekeeping equipment. The HMTCA Beekeepers even have their own business card that is hard to misplace: a cheerful golden yellow with a drawing of a humongous bee in flight.
Chanel Gayle, a 17-year-old Hartford junior who concocted the grapefruit-basil scent in their product lineup, has taken such a liking to beekeeping that she convinced her church to get its own hive. Churchgoers had been impressed with the school’s pure honey.
And in case you were wondering, Gayle says, “I’ve never been stung.”