Maggie Corlett and Lacey Todd stand behind an observation hive full of honeybees donated by Al Borzelli of Happy Hive Farm in Sumner. This is the same hive and bees that the Western Maine Beekeeper’s Association had on display at the Farmington Fair. Submitted photo

Teachers Maggie Corlett and Lacey Todd are spearheading beekeeping classes for students at Meroby Elementary School and Mountain Valley Middle School, both in Mexico, and planning for an apiary to be built on school grounds this spring. The schools received a $100,000 grant for the bee project from the Maine Department of Education and the plan is to eventually include all schools in the RSU 10 district from the Mountain Valley region in the beekeeping project.

How will beekeeping and taking care of an apiary be helpful to students? What will beekeeping teach students?

Our student population struggles with a high incidence of trauma and ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). We see students struggle with chronic absenteeism, negative behaviors, and poor mental health. Beekeeping has been shown to improve well-being after traumatic events. We have observed that outdoor learning has greatly improved our students’ engagement in learning and we believe that beekeeping will directly benefit our students by giving them an authentic and engaging learning opportunity at school, a hands-on element of their instruction, and a connection to the community where they can (as kids) be a legitimate partner. Our program, called The MVBees, will teach the students about self-regulation, responsibility, empathy, economics, and other life skills such as beekeeping.

We chose MVBees as our name because MV is an abbreviation for Mountain Valley, but it’s also a play on MVP . . . Instead of “Most Valuable Player” it’s “Most Valuable Bees” and also “Mountain Valley Bees,” since this project incorporates the whole Mountain Valley region and not just one school.

What will your program entail?

The MVBees will start with the 4th- and 5th-graders at Meroby Elementary and Mountain Valley Middle School. They will learn all about bees, pollination, ecology, small business creation, and beekeeping. From there, they will prepare presentations and teach the other grade levels in their schools. They will install the bees into the hives and get our apiary growing. Students in both schools will have the opportunity to make art and other items to sell on a student-created website, working together toward a common mission.


In the summertime, we will offer a youth MVBee Academy for students to learn about beekeeping while caring for the summer needs of the hive. Soon we will begin incorporating Rumford Elementary School students into the MVBees program. When the new school is built, with all K-8 students combined, we will have a common project that we are working on together.

How will the community be involved in the apiary and beekeeping process? How will Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico be involved in your schools’ apiary project?

We are looking forward to providing a way for the community to purchase honey, student-made items, and queen bees to help financially sustain our program. At this point, we expect that as ideas come about, more opportunities for community involvement will reveal themselves and we look forward to growing this involvement.

Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico will be a key player in helping us get our apiary built. We are still in the design and planning stages, but it is looking like the Region 9 students will be building several sheds for us, clearing and leveling the land, and helping us make connections with others who can help where they aren’t able. We are excited that RSU 10 students will have such a huge role in this program. It will be an apiary program for students, built by students!

How has the Western Maine Beekeepers Association been supporting your efforts on the project thus far and in what ways will the group continue to work with you and your students?

Western Maine Beekeepers Association is the local MSBA (Maine State Beekeepers Association) chapter that teaches an annual beekeeping school through the Region 9 Adult Ed program. Their eight-week school runs from the end of January through the middle of March. They have partnered with us not only in a supportive role, but they will be working directly with classes in the apiary, learning beekeeping skills. Our students have been invited to add to the WMBA bee school classes by presenting background information for bee school participants. Some members have donated items to help get the student-run business started.


Our apiary will host two of the WMBA club hives. Each month, May through November, WMBA meets to do an Open Hive, where club members come to learn about elements of beekeeping in a hands-on, applicable way. The club will be holding those Open Hives at our apiary location, which is conveniently located a short drive from Region 9 school.

Each year, WMBA runs a bee booth at the Farmington Fair. If Farmington Fair has a youth Ag Day next year, the 5th-graders will have the opportunity to join the club members in teaching other students from around the area about beekeeping.

What are your own experiences with beekeeping? Are you worried about getting stung?

Lacey: I am new to beekeeping, but have always enjoyed learning about bees, their roles within the hive, communication techniques, and the processes of making honey and caring for larvae. I can’t wait to learn more about beekeeping at the Region 9 Bee School this winter! I’m not concerned about being stung because I know that honeybees don’t want to sting people. Plus, there are techniques that can help keep bees calm AND we will be wearing protective equipment while working with the bees.

Maggie: I was introduced to beekeeping through the WMBA bee school 5 years ago. I have been learning how to keep bees in Maine ever since. It is one of my favorite things to do and I find it exciting to always have more, interesting things to learn about beekeeping. Beekeepers are never done learning and I love that. While getting stung is an evitable thing that happens when you are working with bees, there are many things you can do to minimize it happening. When honeybees sting, they die (unlike wasps). Since they want to live and are solely focused on their job in the hive, if I’m not presenting as a danger, they won’t want to sting me. Their primary focus is to raise brood, make honey, and forage. If I am not a danger to their focus, they don’t really pay attention to me. We will be sure that our students are provided with all of the necessary safety gear to protect them from stings.

What kinds of products will students sell on the beekeeping website that you’re planning?


Students will be selling honey they harvest, extract, and bottle. They will also be selling hand-made items such as simple beeswax items, for example, lip balm and candles.

Probably the most exciting item for the students that they will be selling is queen bees. Hives can make their own queens, but sometimes a hive goes queenless. This can be fixed by purchasing and introducing a new queen into the hive. Beekeepers in the area will benefit from having a local source for queen bees and the students are excited to have a legitimate community need that they can fill.

Bees have been disappearing from our environment in recent years. What are some reasons for their disappearance? 

Bees have been struggling to survive for two main reasons: Climate change and virus-carrying mites. One of the important reasons why bee schools and beekeeping instruction are so vital to responsible beekeeping is because best practices in beekeeping have changed in the past few years. Instead of leaving the bees to take care of themselves, often with disastrous effects, beekeepers are learning to manage mite loads in their hives. Just like dog owners need to manage fleas and ticks, beekeepers manage mites. Mites attach themselves to bee larvae, infecting them with viruses. These viruses get passed from hive to hive, and weaken them to the point where they cannot survive our Maine winters. Beekeepers need to know how large the mite load is in the hive and how to treat the hive for mites. These are some of the interesting and exciting things that our students will be learning in our MVBee program.

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