CAPE ELIZABETH — As the school year drew to a close, Cape Elizabeth High School welcomed its newest guests to campus – two full hives of bees.

Rising senior Helen Vaughan, 17, introduced honey bees this spring after installing their homes last fall, thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation.

“That funded everything we needed to buy the bees themselves, the fencing around it, the literal boxes, all our hive tools, the smoker, jackets and veils,” Vaughan said Tuesday. “They pretty much paid for everything, which was really nice.”

Tucked in the corner of the athletic fields near the southern end of the CEHS parking lot, the two red hives are protected by a small fence and embellished with gold, hand-painted honeycombs, a decoration Vaughan and other members of the beekeeping club added last fall.

“Helen’s grant was impressive not only because it was student-led, but because of how thoroughly she prepared,” said Liz McEvoy, executive director of the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation. “She worked with school and town administrators, researched other schools that had hives and educated everyone along the way.”

The club now has 15 members and 10,000 bees housed in two hives.

A group of students at South Portland High School also formed a beekeeping club four years ago, starting with three hives, according to SPHS faculty advisor J.B. Kavaliauskas.

After receiving funds last fall to purchase the necessary equipment, Vaughan spent the year recruiting peers and teaching them about beekeeping. She was helped by faculty advisor Joe Wagner, who is also an experienced bee caretaker.

“The creation of the club has presented a unique opportunity for the students, and the presence of the beehives has expanded the whole school’s understanding of the role bees play in nature,” Wagner, Achievement Center coordinator at CEHS, said in an email.

Now, it’s up to the students. “It’s really just putting our beekeeping knowledge to the test,” Vaughan said.

Beekeeping became an interest for Vaughan after she took a course with her father last winter at the Honey Exchange. She acquired bees at home last spring and now cares for four hives with her family.

“That’s where all my bee things started,” she said. “Getting my own hives in my own house.”

Vaughan is now focusing her interests to learn about native bees in Maine, which coincides with her Gold Award project, the highest award a Girl Scout can receive.

As part of her project, Vaughan plans to spread information about native bees during a fundraiser with the beekeeping club at Family Fun Day at Fort Williams this Saturday, June 15.

The club has spent the past few weeks gathering, decorating and drilling blocks of wood for leafcutter, mason, and plasterer bees to make their homes, and will be selling the native bee homes Saturday. They also plan to distribute informational pamphlets on the main bee families of Maine.

The club plans to rotate caring for the bees throughout the summer, and will return from a summer of caretaking for its next meeting in the fall.

Bees are incredibly important to our ecosystem, Vaughan said, and learning to care for native bees aside from honeybees is equally important.

“I’ll be finishing up my Gold Award this summer,” she said, “and for next year, I really just want to recruit a lot more underclassmen and really get them interested in beekeeping before I graduate in the spring.”

Students Helen Vaughan and Maria Schelasin care for beehives they established at Cape Elizabeth High School with the help of a $2,000 grant from Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation. The school beekeeping club has 15 members and 10,000 bees in two hives.

Bees fly in and out of a hive at Cape Elizabeth High School.

Cape Elizabeth High School student Helen Vaughan said she hopes to interest more students in beekeeping before she graduates in 2020.

Helen Vaughan of Cape Elizabeth turns blocks of wood into homes for bees.

Members of the Cape Elizabeth High School beekeeping club will be selling these bee homes they made at Family Fun Day at Fort Williams Park on Saturday, June 15.


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