EMMA DILL The (Wilmington) StarNews
WILMINGTON — About 120,000 honeybees hiding in a forest clearing in Wilmington’s Halyburton Park have found a new home.
Bees recently took up residence in two hives that make up the public park’s new apiary — the technical term for an apiary. Opening a public apiary has been a goal of the New Hanover County Beekeepers Association for more than a decade, said association president Susan Warwick.
“We’ve been wanting to have bees in public for 10-12 years now,” he said. “And we’re very excited to see it become a reality.”
The apiary that recently cut the ribbon is the first of its kind in the area, Warwick said. The project was made possible through a partnership between beekeepers and the city of Wilmington, which owns and operates Halyburton Park.
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Andrea Dillon, treasurer of the New Hanover County Beekeepers Association, said most of the bees living in the apiary were moved from a dead tree branch that was cut down by the city of Wilmington this summer.
The apiary consists of two hive boxes. Each box is home to approximately 60,000 bees and decorated with designs by local artists, including venus fly traps, goldenrod, blackberries and other flowering plants that help pollinate the bees.
According to Warwick, the club, which meets monthly and has more than 100 members, saw the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to finally set up an apiary in a public space. They began to produce “feelings” to weigh their options. City of Wilmington and Halyburton Park recreation supervisor Andy Fairbanks was open to the idea and helped draft a memorandum of understanding between the group and the city.
After everything became clear, beekeepers turned their attention to building houses for bees. They found two Boy Scouts who volunteered to help build an apiary for their Eagle Scout projects.
Over the course of several weeks this summer, Ryan Sproull built a fence-like enclosure that surrounds the apiary, and Oliver Anguish built a “queen castle,” a box containing three hives with a stand that supports the hives and resources that can support larger ones. Hives when needed, Anguish said.
“It’s basically three little beehives that look like their own queen bees and everything,” he said.
Warwick, who has served as the association’s president for two years, said bringing bees into a public space is on the group’s “bucket list” because they see a public apiary as a way to educate the public about bees and the important role they play as pollinators. .
“It’s something we as a club want to share with our community,” Warwick said. “(People) know that bees sting and know that bees make honey, but that’s probably about most people’s knowledge.”
Warwick said he hopes that allowing people to learn about and observe bees at Halyburton Park will enable them to assess the insects and make bee-conscious choices when deciding whether to use pesticides or mosquito repellents.
“If we can get people excited about it, maybe they’ll take better care of bees,” he said.