Welcome to the Zuni High School Bee Web page! We felt that we
needed to document our apiary program in case other high schools wanted
to start programs of their own. You will find some history as well as
latest information about what is happening in our apiary program and
perhaps learn a little about these amazing 'white mans flies'.
Our program has been successful, to the point that our honey does carry the Taste of New Mexico, logo. Instead of having our contact email address, at the end, here it is:
Now to continue with the information at hand.
Zuni Pueblo, is an Indian reservation that is some 40 miles south of
Galllup, New Mexico. We are located approx. 12 miles from
Arizona in what is known as a high Senorian desert some 6200 feet above
level. To say that we are in an isolated area is an understatement!
The pueblo has some 12,000 souls and has been in this
for a long time. How long? You may ask, it was one of the
seven cities of gold (Cibola ) that Coronado was looking for when Spain
power house. The natives at that time raised, corn, squash,
and beans and in
this area a lot of orchards, providing the US Army with food during its
campaiges. While we are isolated from the big cities in some
has advantages, especially with bees. Very little is done in
large scale agraculture here some of the Zunis' raise sheep aand a
little corn, this means that there is little in the
way of pesticides in use to complicate our honey bees.
The program started in last year when our Biology teacher, Mr. William
(Lil' Bill) Becker thought about an orchard at our school. Lil' Bill
was surprised and disappointed that there were no agronomy classes in
school district. A people who at one time grew all their food
did very little raising of crops but more importantly, they were
loosing the institutional knowledge of how and what
species of agculture native to the area. Bill started with a native
garden, showing students how past generations in this area grew crops.
Later he was able to establish a orchard, of several types of
fruit trees behind the high school. Later Bill
discussed other 'add ons' to the program with the science
department head and our Astronomy / Chemistry teacher, Mr. Kirt
Voss, about the possibility of having a few bee hives. Mr.
made the mistake of telling Bill that he had bee hives when he farmed
in Kansas and
there the idea was born.
Before we could get our first 2 bee hives, we had to secure funding for
them. As most of you know funding from our schools is limited
if we were going to get the seed money to start this program, we had to
find a cash source. We were lucky because William had
with New Mexico State
University (NMSU) in Las Crucus as well as the Department of
Education at Santa
Fe. Because of his efforts, the district received a $10,000
of which Bills share was approx $3300 for him to use.
Bill would order the necessary items such as the suits, equipment and
of course the bees. We contacted a company, B&B Honey Farm out
of Houston, Minnisota that agreed to work with us to make a start.
There was enough money for two hives, the bees themselves as
as equipment for the students that would be involved in the project.
Equipment such as:
complete listing of equipment see attachment.
Do you know that you can ship live honey bees through the US Mail
service? Yes, you can and rest assured that when they arrive
your local post office you will get a call saying your bees have
arrived, and please come and pick them up pronto! Nothing
get the government postal system moving quite so fast as 3 - 5,000
angry, hungry, and tired Italian honey bees. Do make sure that you give
the post office a heads up and your cell phone number, it makes life
easier on everybody.
We became the proud owners of 2 bee hives. Bill had the students make
the hives from the kits we had received and of course he had them
painted white. After they dried we
located a spot not far from the high school that would allow for
students access to the hives, water near by for the bees, and shade
renowned New Mexico summer sun. We prepard the ground
some concrete bricks for the foundation, now were cooking! We
waited for the 'girls'* to arrive.
sure that you get the hive material as far in advance as you can.
You will have to build the hive with the materials as well as
paint the hive when it is completed. Make sure that all the
supers and frames are complete so they do not have to wait until 'you
get things finished'. Why, you may ask? Once the
girls arrive you want to make sure that everything is ready for them.
Stress, yep, you would not think that insects such as bees
would get stressed, but think about it. You are put into a
small box with 3-5,000 of your closest friends, bounced
around as you travel, heat, cold strange smells and little to eat, you
would be stressed too. Stressed bees are not happy bees and
you will pay.
Sure enough, the girls arrived at our local post office and after a
sugar syrup painting to feed
and calm them down it was out to the hives. The bees
deposited in the hives just hours after they arrived. For
Lil' Bill and I this was the first time we had a chance to get up close
and personal with the bees. It can be very unsettling to try
and deposit the girls into the box. They are flying all
around and the buzz of 3,000 bees can certainly distract you, but
working quickly and having them fed made the job easier.
Surprisingly none of us were stung. Good carma!
Early the next morning, we went out to see
how they were doing. Much to our dismay, one hive was doing
well and the other was empty! What happened? Well,
figured that the queen was injured in the transportation, or the bees
killed her, in any case we had to try and get another box of bees,
fast! Unfortunately, B&B was unable to provide us
with a back up
shipment but we were able to locate another source in Florida and
ordered them. Unfortunately, neither Kurt or I was in the
when the bees arrived and Bill had to make deposit of the new bees in
the hive by himself. To Bill's unforgetting legend, he will
never live it
down and we are positive, that the poor performance can be directed
back to Lil Bill! To this day, this hive has not done well.
We established some syrup feeding stations as our first blossoms had
not yet bloomed to allow the bees to start building their numbers.
A queen starts to build the population of her hive by laying
eggs.... Lot of them, a queen once she gets into high gear will lay
anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500 eggs a day during the summer.
in about 21 days or so, a new battalion of 'girls' are ready to start
their job each day, and food is a priority for them. Sugar
and lots of it are the order of the day until the first blooms come
out. Fifty pound bags of sugar was nothing! It got
point that I started looking for the BATF, and wondering if we were
going to get raided - I'm sure they thought we had a still back in the
hills and making 'moon shine'!
Once the blooms started they pretty much leave the sugar water alone
and start doing their jobs. After 100 million years
evolution, the bees have this gig down to a science. During
different parts of their lives, the bees have different jobs and do the
jobs very efficiently without any guidance from us. Give them a warm,
dry place to live, and watch to help them with some basics (sugar
let them do what they do! Unlike administrators the world over, whos
motto seems to be mess with any operation because we need to mess with
it. If you get a hive, resist the urge to screw with it, the
girls will thank you for it.
We were able to harvest, a polite way of saying we robbed them, of
about a gallon of honey by September. We entered the honey
the State Fair and won first place for our honey comb and third place
for the light amber honey. We also won a few ribbons for some the veggies that we had raised as well.
Important note. Bill, our youngest member is always thinking and
is our resident politician, took the students involved with the project
to Santa Fe along with some honey samples and other items and met with
some of the members of the Public Education Department.
Specifically, Mr. James Holloway,
one of the assistant secretaries. He and his staff were very
impressed with what had been accompolished in just a year. I must
also say that he and the state education department have continued to
be a big supportor of our projects.
We dusted the hives with antibiotics and wrapped them with a plastic
wrapper. The insolated wrapper provides the girls with
warmth for the winter. The center must maintain at least 95
degree internal tempture to keep them healthy.
Anything you can do to
help them keep warm will allow them to eat less honey and pollen.
The cold is not really the big problem, damp is!
when you go outside on a cold winters morning and breath, your body
exhales moisture, bees are no different, they exhale moisture too.
A couple of bees exhaling mosture won't do anything, but with
hive of 30-60,000 that's a lot of little bodies just trying to keep
dry! So in the top of the hive, we place a wool pillow.
This pillow provides insullation and also absorbes excess
mositure and helps keep them dry!
Now in most places finding 'raw' wool could be a problem.
are not too many places in downtown Boston where one can go and pick
15-20 pounds of raw wool. Not so in Gallup, New
We are in the heart of the great Navajo Nation and one of the
main crops of the native americans here is wool. I was able
talk to an owner of one of the agriculture stores and he gave us the
wool scraps that would handle two hives. Now there was a
point and a bad point to this deal. The good, hey free wool,
the bad, free wool - let me explain, 'raw' wool means it is
off the sheep complete with sheep pellets. Well, this would
do for our girls, which means I was elected to clean the wool.
Washing, and washing, and yet more washing with clothes soap
which seemed to last for weeks, before the wool was cleaned.
absorbes between 5 and 6 times it weight in water, there were
times I swore it held 20 times it weight though! I
softest hands and feet from the lanolin, and my two buds enjoyed giving
me a hard time for having hands like a girl.
Warm and Dry.... the name of the game.
With the pillows installed we also put in entrance reducers at the
front of the hive. Instead of having the whole front open,
came up with a wooden board with channels that provide enough air but
keeps out little critters. Since the hives are in the field
wanted to keep mice and other rodents out of the hive and we think that
this did a good job. - Great idea, but don't tell Bill!
Now we just waited for winter to get over... See next page
* Side note: you will see that I often refer to the bees as
A honey bee hive will consist of 96% or so of female bees.
They are the ones who control the collective hive in every
The male or drones make up the remaining hive population.
Their sole function is to eat, and mate with any virgin queen
they can. After visiting the hive, it is not uncommon for me
to talk to
them, I simply call them the girls, my two compadries accuse me of
individually naming them, but that is silly......well, OK so one is named