LEOMINSTER — The buzz around the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg & Leominster, before the temperatures dropped, is the apiary in the backyard.
Guided by club Education Director Ladda Kosaketh, members tend to the 40,000 residents of the two busy hives.
Kosaketh leads the junior beekeepers group on how to maintain the hives while minimizing bee deaths.
“I show them how to use the tools without injuring the bees,” she said. And the rotating group of aspiring apiarists take that responsibility seriously. Decked out in cotton coveralls, hood, gloves and screen veil the students use a sticky brush remove excess propolis.
Proplis is manufactured from plant resin collected by the worker bees. It serves as a sealant in the construction and maintenance of the hive and eventually hardens like industrial caulking.
Because of its natural antioxidant properties and medicinal applications, humans harvest it for retail in various incantations and forms. But removing too much could jeopardize the structural stability of the hive so the keepers learn to balance the beam.
Likewise with the honey, which is the sweet byproduct of the pollination process. It must be removed in measures that do not deprive the bees of it. They, like humans and Winnie-the-Poohs, eat honey.
“We harvest about 40 pounds of honey per year,” said Kosaketh. “Sometimes twice a year, which we sell here at the club.”
The beekeeping project is part of the GBCFL’s wider STEAM initiative that includes several science-related sub-clubs.
The 630 members often overlap their participation from beekeeping to robotics to fitness and art.
The entrepreneurial spirit is also cultivated inside the walls of 365 Lindell Ave. as students operate a snack bar and concession stand that creates revenue along with the honey pot and a profitable T-shirt industry where students design logos, outsource the printing then sell their wares to members and parents.
There is also a homework room, which along with many of the activities is staffed by volunteers, where students get the help, resources and space to study effectively. The idea is to keep the bees outside and the “Bs” off the report cards.