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Beekeeper Group's Dream Takes Flight

By Laura Moore, posted Sep 2, 2022
Susan Warwick (from left), president of the New Hanover County Beekeepers Association, and David Bridgers, one of the founding members of the NHCBA, open one of Susan’s bee hives at her home. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
A new apiary is creating a buzz as a home for bees at Halyburton Park. Since bees play an important role in every aspect of the ecosystem, the New Hanover County Beekeepers Association (NHCBA) is working to ensure bees are welcome in the area.
 
Recently, the NHCBA accomplished a long-term goal of setting up an apiary, or a bee yard, in Halyburton Park, 4099 S. 17th St. This is a place where beehives are kept and managed by a beekeeper.
 
“Ten years ago, it was a common question, ‘Why don’t we set up a hive in a public spot?’” said Susan Warwick, NHCBA president. “It has always been a dream, a goal that was out there.” 
 
Through a collaboration with the city of Wilmington, the University of North Carolina Wilmington and local Eagle Scout candidates, the apiary has become a reality in boosting efforts to sustain pollinators and provide educational opportunities to residents, officials said. 
 
At 4 p.m. Sept. 12, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held to officially open the apiary at Halyburton Park to the public. 
 
Warwick said Mayor Bill Saffo has committed to being a part of the event, as well as some Wilmington City Council members, the Boy Scouts who helped build the apiary, the artists who painted the design on the boxes and NHCBA members. 
 
“It is time to celebrate 12 years of a dream,” Warwick said.
 
A small reception will be held in the park auditorium after the ceremony.  
 
Warwick donated a hive of her own bees, who now are housed in a bee box painted by artist Cathy Poulos, and another hive that was rescued by the city of Wilmington tree crew now will live in a bee box painted by artist Robert Holst. 
 
Ryan Sproull and Oliver Anguish built a resource hive, a bench for the hives to sit on and a protective fencing around the apiary for their Eagle Scout projects. 
 
NHCBA members donated rock and ground cover to complete the apiary project. 
 
Through the Bee City USA certification program, Wilmington was officially designated as the 10th Bee City in America in June 2015, a designation that represents an honor and a responsibility.
 
“As part of that certification, there is a commitment to sustaining habitats for pollinators,” said Andy Fairbanks, recreation supervisor at Halyburton Park. “Having a public apiary aligns with our work supporting and energizing pollinators. This ties in with all the work we have done previously.” 
 
According to the Bee City USA website, “Pollinators touch our lives in numerous ways each day, including being responsible for approximately one third of the food and drink we consume. The value of crop pollination has been estimated between $18 and $27 billion annually in the U.S.”
 
This community partnership was a “no-brainer,” according to Fairbanks and will both promote pollinators while educating the general public about the importance of bees.
 
The apiary is close to the events center at Halyburton Park, and it will be used for programming and education. Limited signs are there currently, but additional projects include interpretative and educational signs as part of the completed project. 
 
Part of the agreement between the NHCBA and the city of Wilmington includes a minimum of four educational programs a year. 
 
“It is an opportunity for the general public to learn about honeybees, see hives in an urban area and observe them and learn about a honey harvest so they can enjoy that and experience that,” Fairbanks said. “It is a great opportunity for kids and families to be a part of that process.”
 
The NHCBA was founded in 2010, and it has a tightknit membership of around 100 members who are committed to education and outreach within the community, Warwick said. 
 
The NHCBA will use the apiary to continue its mission of promoting awareness of the importance of bees by offering classes and events for educational purposes. “Bee School” classes are held regularly to help people learn about “the most important insect in the world,” according to the NHCBA website. 
 
“There are great teaching and training opportunities with beekeeping,” Warwick said, “and these hives will be great resources for us to use.”
 
Warwick shared that “one-third of our plates” depend on bees. The vegetables people eat, as well as the food fed to livestock, depends on pollination.  
 
Another aspect of the “Bee City USA” certification is promoting the need for the community to plant bee-friendly flowers and plants to ensure the health of the bee population. 
 
“It is highly important for people to plant a variety of things because bees need variety in their diet,” Warwick explained. “Bees will fly 3 to 5 miles for a food source.”
 
NHCBA members will share in the duties of caring for the boxes with a thorough inspection checklist to ensure the health of the hives. 
 
“It is set up as an educational exhibit at Halyburton Park and it is a learning opportunity for those who don’t know very much about bees,” said David Bridgers, master craftsman beekeeper and one of the founding members of the NHCBA. 
 
Warwick, who started beekeeping as a hobby about 10 years ago, went from knowing very little about bees to now working towards her master beekeeper certification. 
 
“You think you know about bees, but it just blew my mind. I was enthralled, amazed, captivated. I had no clue,” Warwick said. “It’s probably the coolest thing I have ever done, by far.”
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