Zuni High School
Apiary Program

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 the 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. Location, location, location
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 sea 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 location for a long time.  How long? You may ask, it was one of the fabled seven cities of gold (Cibola ) that Coronado was looking for when Spain was a 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 ways, it 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 our school district.  A people who at one time grew all their food now 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. Voss 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 and 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 connections 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 grant 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 well as equipment for the students that would be involved in the project.  Equipment such as:
Masks Tools Medicines Smokers
Hive Frames Bees Gloves

For a complete listing of equipment see attachment.

First Year
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 at your local post office you will get a call saying your bees have arrived, and please come and pick them up pronto!  Nothing will 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.  

May 2009
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 from our renowned New Mexico summer sun.  We prepard the ground established some concrete bricks for the foundation, now were cooking!  We waited for the 'girls'* to arrive.  

Tip: Make 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 were 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 very well and the other was empty!  What happened?  Well, we 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 pueblo 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.  So 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 water, 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 to the 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  plus of 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 water) 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.

September 2009
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 into 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.

October 2009
We dusted the hives with antibiotics and wrapped them with a plastic wrapper.  The insolated wrapper provides the girls with additional 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!  Just like 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 a hive of 30-60,000 that's a lot of little bodies just trying to keep warm and 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.  There 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 Mexico!  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 to 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 good 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 fresh off the sheep complete with sheep pellets.  Well, this would not 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.  Wool absorbes between 5 and 6 times it weight in water,  there were times I swore  it held 20 times it weight though!  I had the 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, Bill came up with a wooden board with channels that provide enough air but keeps out little critters.  Since the hives are in the field we 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 girls.  A honey bee hive will consist of 96% or so of female bees.  They are the ones who control the collective hive in every way.  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 Becky.......

See next page