Saturday, May 11, the good folks at Case Western University’s Squire Valeeview Farm, including Chris Bond, Horticulturist, Anna Locci, Farm Manager, and the wonderful staff, designers and builders, dedicated the A. I. Root Observational Apiary just behind the Farm’s Honey House.

The site was initially a small, almost empty field, located between experimental and residential gardens, a small rock retaining wall leading to staff housing, and the building holding the honey house, workshop, fish hatchery and hydroponic garden research facility.

When Case wanted to expand the apiary portion of the farm, they came to the A. I. Root Company because of the long-time beekeeping heritage both The Root Company and family have in northeast Ohio. They were looking for good ideas, some leadership in moving them in the right direction and of course some financial support. Brad Root, President of Root Candles, asked me to go and take a look at the facility and what it needed. I was able to meet with both Chris and Anna, and look at the existing buildings, equipment and other facilities. At the time, the apiary was in a field behind the honey house, and visitors…and there are a LOT of visitors to this apiary….had to watch any outside activity through a window in the honey house, some 25 or more yards from the actual hives.

It was immediately obvious that some way that visitors could get closer to the hives was needed. Other facilities wishing to assist close-up visits often use multiple sets of protective clothing so those close to the bees have protection, and can feel safe. But bee suits are expensive, are often ill fitting and far too often there are not enough of them.

A quick look at the setting and the use of a tall, screened observation area seemed ideal. First, visitors needed a safe and easy way to get to where the bees were, so it was suggested an ADA door be installed in the honey house so anybody could have access to the apiary. To accommodate that further, a cement walkway was installed leading from the honey house right to the hives, and then, the best part, a tall, screened fence was installed, such that bees leaving and returning to the hives had to fly upwards to 10 feet high to get over the fence, and thus away from visitors. The curved fence allows several indented areas for small gatherings and a large curved area for crowds. Beekeepers can take hives apart, show individual frames and talk about the bees up close and personal with visitors only inches away, safely standing behind the screen.

The dedication took place during a meeting of the Greater Cleveland Beekeeper’s Association, with Ross Conrad as the guest speaker. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held and Brad Root and Case farm management staff gave short talks before the cutting.

Afterwards, several live bee demonstrations were held both inside the screen and on both sides for those attending that did not have protective equipment…the perfect use of this new equipment.

The builders and designers at Case took the very simple design I suggested and made a much better and more functional structure. An employee did the paintings on the lower part of the screen of native flora and fauna, and the cement sidewalk makes access possible for anybody wishing to see bees, and beekeepers up close. They did a great job.

And, if you’re looking for a good way to get bees and people together in a relatively inexpensive fashion, take a look at how this works…it’s easy to build, and easy to use, and you’ll get a lot of curious people dropping by…just to watch the bees.

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