Most people run away — sometimes frantically — when they see a bee. Others have admiration and respect for the species that are an important part of our ecosystem, but may still prefer to keep their distance. And then, there are those who suit up and invite themselves to the colony. Enter: Gilman’s beekeeping club.
Back in the spring of 2019, two Gilman seniors taking the Environmental Sustainability course approached history teacher Bill Gamper. They knew he kept bees in the backyard of his home with his wife, Mary, and they were interested in bringing bees to Gilman’s campus. With guidance from their new advisor, the boys built the enclosure that sits behind the Redmond C.S. Finney Athletic Center to house the hives. They purchased bee boxes, frames, gloves, hoods, suits, hive tools, and a smoker, and they got to work.
The Central Maryland Beekeepers Association donated two starter colonies to the group, and Gamper gave them one of his own. The two boys cared for the three hives until graduation, but the following school year’s weather and other conditions were not kind to the hives. None of them survived.
This school year — and being back on campus full-time — brought renewed interest in the bees. Now, about 10 students meet weekly or every other week during an afternoon block period to tend to the bees, collect honey, and work on the business of selling it at the school store. At one of their meetings, they took a field trip to Gamper’s house where they had more room to spread out and explore the hives. Gamper reported that “one of the kids said this is the best field trip he’d ever been on.”
Thomas Lee ’24 said he was “surprised at how vulnerable a bee colony really is to external changes.” Ryan Alevizatos ’22 learned “how important bees are to the ecosystem and how complex their society is inside the walls of the hive.” Much like the worker bees who all have specific jobs, the boys divide the labor of their club: Some are more hands-on with the bees; others handle the business and marketing side of selling the honey.
Ali Brooks ’22, who created the logo for the honey jars and is a self-described “walking honey salesman,” said he has caught himself going on and on to friends about the joys of beekeeping. “I used to be a little scared of bees, to tell the truth,” Brooks said. “But after learning about how to handle them, and how they work, my fear has almost entirely evaporated. Instead of freezing up or flinching when I see a bee, my friends are the ones who flinch, and I have to reassure them that it’s OK.”
Brooks predicts that in the future, the club will offer honey sticks for the customer who isn’t quite ready to commit to the $10 jar sold in the school store. Gamper assures anyone who may have reservations that the honey is well worth the price. “And there’s only one place you can get Gilman honey.” Stop by the school store to get your own bottle, and try it for yourself!