The Charleston County School District (CCSD) wasn't too sweet on the observational honeybee colonies set up by the Bee Cause Project at six local elementary schools. And with good reason - the hives were installed in district property without a contract or formal review. Ouch.
But parents and schoolchildren urged the district to let the bees be during a Charleston County School Board meeting on Aug. 11.
Despite the district's recommendation that the hives be removed, board members aren't necessarily against letting the bees stick around. They just want to make sure the observational colonies, which let students get an up-close look at a working beehive, are safe for kids and school buildings.
According to the district's director of risk safety and environmental management, "numerous" children have been stung. Numerous is a vague term, but if kids are really being stung by bees more often than before the hives were installed, there is cause for concern.
Bee stings can cause moderate to severe allergic reactions for some people.
But honeybees are generally docile and can teach a lot about insect behavior, our food supply and even different forms of government.
Don't worry, bees resemble a democratic society more than a monarchy, even with a queen.
The Bee Cause Project has already received requests from more than 200 schools around the country to establish educational programs, including invitations from 25 CCSD principals. The project covers all costs of installing and maintaining the hives.
And with bee populations in decline - sometimes alarmingly so - around the country, demystifying them is perhaps more important than ever. Bees help pollinate about 30 percent of the food crops grown in the United States each year, and their decline has cost the economy billions of dollars.
Scientists have so far been unable to pinpoint the cause of mass bee die-offs, often referred to as colony collapse disorder, but some studies have implicated certain classes of pesticides and fungicides.
To be sure, the Bee Cause Project should have cleared the observation hives with the school district before having them installed.
The school principals involved might have thought to ask permission as well. Modifying school buildings to house colonies of insects is a structural and liability concern.
While the real potential for harm from the hives is slight, the district is right to insist on formal guidelines for the project and appropriate insurance to cover any potential incidents involving students, faculty or school property.
Bee Cause is working to comply with the district's requirements. The educational value of its project and the level of public support for it says the school district should reciprocate.
Educating students and the public about bees and their many benefits is a goal worthy of the buzz it generates.
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