Honeybees are vitally important to almost everything we consume. The Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds’ have taken important steps in raising public awareness about honeybees and dedicated a barn on the fairgrounds to them called the Bee Barn. Joyce Factory Direct is proud to be the sponsor of the Bee Barn, building a sunroom enclosure around the bee observation wall for public viewing of the activity of the honeybees.
The honeybee population has been struggling in the last few years. Agricultural scientists and beekeepers have been perplexed by a threat they call Colony Collapse Disorder for which they have no answer. Honeybees are so important to our ecosystem that if all the honeybees died, we would lose our flowers within five years and not long after all vegetables, fruits and berries would disappear. According to the USDA website, bee pollination is responsible for $15+ billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables. As an example, in California the almond crop alone uses 1.6 million colonies of bees, greater than one half of all honeybees in the United States.
In the mid 2000’s, the Cuyahoga County Fairground’s maintenance crew noticed there was barely any bee activity around their flower beds. In 2007, Jeff Collins, Director of Maintenance at the fairgrounds, volunteered to take a beekeeping course. He started a hive on the grounds and since then, there has been an improvement not only at the fairgrounds, but on the surrounding properties as well.
The project has now grown from the one hive to the bee observation wall to a Bee Barn. In 2009, the maintenance staff built a bee observation wall which Collins designed. Today, the bee observation wall is in the Bee Barn and enclosed in a full size sunroom donated by Joyce Factory Direct. The observation wall is designed to show the inner workings of an active beehive first hand. According to Dennis Eck, a member of The Greater Cleveland Beekeepers Association, the “bee wall” shows how the honeybees work together as a community, their mannerisms and communication skills. Along with how the bees store their honey and pollen and lay eggs. Occasionally, you may even get a glimpse at the queen bee. Eck also shares that although they cannot extract the honey from the observation hive as it is sealed, they will have capped frames of honey from other hive to use for extracting demonstrations. The honey in the observation hive is food for the bees for the winter.
Beekeepers are an important link in fighting against the loss of honeybees. Currently in the Greater Cleveland Beekeepers Association (GBCA) there are 140 active members. Eck estimates that there roughly 200 beekeepers in Cuyahoga County. As a beekeeper, he encourages anyone who is interested in becoming a beekeeper to attend beginner classes that are available in most beekeeping organizations. The GCBA has beginner classes each Wednesday evening during the month of February at the Rocky River Nature Center. By becoming involved with these organizations, you can learn from experienced beekeepers and become comfortable working with active hives.
The Bee Barn is expected to be open at the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival which starts July 20th. From then on, the Bee Barn will be open at various events that are held on the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds throughout the year. Joyce Factory Direct is a proud sponsor of such an important educational environmental venue.
A special thanks to Dennis Eck for his time and knowledge!