There’s a Buzz in the Air

by Lynne Ober

So you’ve decided to adopt a hive of bees?  How do you start and what do you do to keep these buzzing insects happy in your hive?

Twenty-six students attended the Merrimack Valley Bee-Keeping School that began in March and terminated with a live hiving demonstration in Litchfield on Saturday.

Beekeeper Dick Dion demonstrates how to get bees from their shipping container into a hive.

Bee school isn’t just for new or ‘wanna be’ beekeepers.  It is also attended by beekeepers who want to increase their knowledge.  The bee school unravels the mysteries of bee hives.  It starts with everything that you need to know to get started and then works its way into methods for having happy hives.  Hobbyists rub elbows with commercial bee keepers. 

“I learned a lot about how bees think,” said Sean Joley, who attended with his mother. 

Students learned about basic equipment, the interactions within the hive and the roles of the bees from queen to worker bee to drone.

They learn how to collect the honey and the beeswax.

Since bees winter outside, they learn how to handle their hives over the winter, and then finally it is time to actually learn how to get your bees into a hive.

Sean, his mother and sister will start two hives on property in Temple, New Hampshire, where they are starting a goat dairy.  “My grandfather used to keep bees,” he grinned. 

Students learned about Italian bees and Carniolan bees, the two species that are most often kept in hives today. 

The Joleys have decided to use Carniolan bees because they have a strong ability to defend the hive successfully against insect pests while at the same time being extremely gentle in its behavior toward beekeepers.  All bee keepers expect to be stung, but these bees sting less than their Italian counterparts.

Carniolan bees are able to adjust worker population to nectar availability.  They can make rapid adjustments of population levels to rapidly expand worker bee populations after nectar becomes available in the spring, and, again, to rapidly cut off brood production when nectar ceases to be available in quantity.  It meets periods of high nectar with high worker populations and consequently stores large quantities of honey and pollen during those periods.  They are resistant to some diseases and parasites that can debilitate hives of other subspecies.

Some of the other students had chosen the Italian bees because they are excellent foragers and have good housekeeping skills so they keep their hives clean and productive.  However, they do not deal as well with winter, and bee keepers must leave more honey in the hive over the winter months.

New students, once they have their hives set up, are still faced with the task of getting their bees into their hive and it can be a daunting task to face one to three pounds of buzzing bees. 

The bees are shipped in containers with food.  Your job is to get them out of that container, hopefully without being stung and into the hive where you want them to live.

Visions of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger being chased by angry bees come to mind, but Dick Dion, the beekeeper who will demonstrate this last lesson exudes confidence.  He chats about his own experiences and passes out tips learned over years of keeping bees.

He tells his students to make cakes of beeswax mixed with olive oil and to run this cake over hands and arms before working with bees.  “You’ll smell like a bee and they won’t sting you.  I do this because I like to work with the bees with my hands.”

Dion shows the queens to those gathered.  They are shipped in tiny boxes.  The box has a plug hole and that is filled with food.  He demonstrates how to put the queen, in her box, into the hive.  The other bees must get used to her scent or they will kill her.  By the time the queen eats all the food in the plug and escapes into the hive, the other bees will accept her and she can begin laying eggs.

Now it’s time to get that buzzing knot of bees out of the box and into the hive.  Dion takes a spray bottle filled with a 50/50 sugar and water solution and heavily squirts the bees.  They quit buzzing and start walking on the bottom of their box.  They can’t fly when they are wet.  Next he shakes the box so that all the bees fall to the bottom instead of hovering about the food source in the lid.  Quickly he opens the box and upends it.  Bees fall into the hive and begin crawling around.  Within 15 minutes that have moved deep into the hive and found the honey that Dion put there for food.  He puts the top onto the hive, and the new colony is left in peace and quiet to get settled.

If honey had not been already place in the hive, then Dion would have had to feed the bees until there was a ready food supply.  He talked about two different systems for delivering food to the bees.

Then it was time for a student to try it.  After debate, a student stepped forward and rubbed the beeswax all over her hands.  Then she got the bottle and squirted the bees.  Following the instructions, she opened the box and tried to shake the bees into the hive.  Some went.  Some didn’t.  Dion stepped in and showed how to handle this situation by maneuvering the box from side to side.  These bees were more active and not as wet so they flew around among the observers. 

People started flapping their hands to keep the bees away.

Dion left the top off the hive and calmly said that they would come back and settle down.

While waiting for the bees to settle, Dion passed out two sheets about honey and its uses.  He also told students how to move a hive and urged them to call with any problem.

Students put the hive together in anticipating of adding bees.

Land Issues Continue to Plague New Windham High School

by Diane Chubb

The road to a new high school in Windham has been anything but smooth.  In fact, at one point, there was a question whether there even was a physical road to the new high school.

The latest issue to come up in Windham involves surveys of the land purchased for the proposed high school. 

The proposed land encompasses 120 acres off Route 111 in Windham.  The architects and surveyors have been on the site assessing the location and trying to determine where to best site the physical building. 

The first survey company, Doucet Survey Incorporated, based in Newmarket, New Hampshire, returned with its determination of the boundary lines for the school district's property.  However, an abutter commissioned his own survey.  The results of this second survey did not match the first survey, and in fact, set out a boundary much closer to where the building has been sited. 

“The property is an old one,” said SAU Business Manager Brian Gallagher.  As such, the description of the boundaries is in metes and bounds, creating quite the challenge in determining the lines.

Rather than actual, precise angles and measurements, the property's boundaries are described in terms of geographical features.  Over time, these geographical features change, making it very difficult for even the most qualified surveyors.  If the surveyor were to start even just a foot or two off from the correct location, then all of the measurements will be incorrect. 

Faced with this dilemma, the Windham School Board decided to commission a third survey at a cost of $38,000.  The results of this survey are expected to be reported to the board by mid-May. 

Depending on the results of this third survey, the board will determine if it will seek reimbursement from Doucet Survey for any possible errors. 

The boundary affected by the discrepancies in the surveys is actually between the land purchased by the school district and land that is already owned by the town.  Thus, no third private party is involved.

If the results of the third survey vary greatly from the results of the first survey, it is possible that the town will hold a special meeting over the summer to allow voters to decide on how the land should be apportioned.  

Windham has been working toward a new high school for a number of years now.  The school district initially began looking for a piece of land big enough to house a new high school when Windham and Pelham were discussing whether to build a co-op high school. 

Former business manager Gerald Boucher worked with the Windham School Board to identify suitable land.  Windham, like Pelham, does not have a lot of available land for purchase for such a project, because residential developments are far more profitable for developers. 

The property off of Route 111 was identified, and negotiations began with the owner.  The property has lots of large, flat places where a building could be placed, and included access to Route 111 through London Bridge Road.  The road was discontinued by the town in the 1930s, meaning that the town no longer maintained the road to the required standards.

In November 2004, the school district entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the property, and it was brought to the voters in March 2005.  Windham voters overwhelmingly agreed to fund the purchase, and the district sought financing.  Once the financing was approved, the sale was completed within three months.

The School Board has been working with the town to upgrade London Bridge Road to meet required standards. 

One feature on London Bridge Road is London Bridge itself, an old stonework structure that has been determined to have historical value.  According to Brian Gallagher, the district reached out to historical groups early on in the process to address the bridge, but received no response until during the design process stage.

In an effort to address the conservation group, the district worked with an abutter to move London Bridge Road around the bridge.  No money was exchanged, but the abutter gained access to what will be a town maintained road, and he will have two sub-dividable lots that will be worth a substantial amount with the new town road access. 

Another compromise had to be made with another abutter to the district property.  The district needed more land to offset the entrance to the proposed school and to deal with wetlands issues.  Therefore, the district negotiated the trade of a tract of land with the abutter, also giving him access to what will be a town maintained road. 

“The goal is to start construction in August,” said Gallagher.  Team Design architects are working with the School Board on a final design.  The final bid package is expected to go out in June.  Six construction firms have already been pre-qualified, and will be permitted to bid on the final construction of the school. 

Gallagher also notes that the Board of Selectman has been working with the School Board to address the land issues as they have arisen.  “They have been there every step of the way, assisting whenever necessary.” 

Week of the Child

Children and staff at “Kathy’s Building Blocks Nursery” School in Dracut recently celebrated Week of the Child.  Children showed how special they are by designing hand painted t-shirts, making unique necklaces and parading in their Sunday best.

Team of Local Residents Join the Breast Cancer 3-Day Event

by Karen Plumley

These days everyone knows someone who is suffering with breast cancer.  Whether it is a close relative, a friend, or a friend of a friend, the facts are plain and clear:  it is the second leading cause of death among women (after lung cancer).  According to American Cancer Society statistics, the chance of developing an invasive form of breast cancer during a woman's lifetime is approximately one in seven. 

Adrianne Davenport, a Salem resident and member of the Pelham Police Department, lost both her grandmother and aunt to the disease.  With a little bit of encouragement from her sister, she has decided to form a walking team and register for one of the biggest fundraising events of the year, the Breast Cancer 3-Day, a walk-a-thon taking place in Boston on August 4, 5 and 6 benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  Thousands of men and women have already formed teams and will walk 60 miles over the course of the three days in support of this worthy cause.  “It is nice to have a team.  We can train together and walk together,” enthused Davenport.  As described on the website for the event, “It's a weekend of hope, as we honor lives lost, celebrate survivors, promote breast cancer research, and help bring breast cancer care to those who so desperately need it.”

In order for Adrianne and her team, “Women Walking,” to participate, they must raise a minimum of $2,200.  “We plan on having fundraising tables at the supermarket, a fundraising cookout, and we are currently working on a fundraising night as well,” described Davenport.  Other members of her team are also working on their own fundraisers.  Team member Martha Flood has worked out an agreement with the owner of Body Oasis in Amherst, and 35 percent of all fees incurred at the spa will be donated to the team.

Fundraising is only part of the effort for these ladies.  The other major component will be the physical training.  “Every member of the team is assigned a coach to help in the training,” noted Davenport.  The coaches will assist participants in their training needs, even down to recommending the type of shoes that they should be wearing.  “They told us to bring two pairs of shoes and alternate them over the three days.  That way any hotspots with the first pair on the first day won’t be further aggravated on the second day,” Davenport explained.  Walking 20 miles in one day is no easy feat.  “We walked 10 miles yesterday and it took us four hours.  It was a real eye-opener,” said Davenport.

Throughout the year, several other cities will also be hosting their own 3-Day walk, including Michigan, Chicago, Tampa Bay, San Diego, and many others.  To get involved by either donating or joining the walking team, or for more general information, log on to the website at  Donations can be accepted online under any member name.  Registrations are also accepted.  Alternatively, donations can be sent to Adrianne Davenport, PO Box 251, N. Salem, NH 03073.

Martha Flood and Adrianne Davenport form “Women Walking,” a team that will participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day event this August.

School Administrative Unit Meeting will Include Discussion on Separate SAUs

by Diane Chubb

The Pelham and Windham School Boards will be holding their semi-annual meeting with members of the SAU staff on Wednesday, May 17 at 7:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held in the conference room at the SAU office in Windham.  Members of the public are welcome to attend.

The meeting will cover many of the usual business topics, such as reports for the past year by Superintendent Elaine Cutler, Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson, and Business Manager Brian Gallagher. 

The boards will also review the expense report of the SAU budget for the current year, a review of financial statements, and discuss salary adjustment recommendations by Cutler for all SAU staff for the next budget year.

In addition, Windham School Board has requested an examination of the division of the SAU.  This would mean that Windham would have its own SAU and Pelham would also have its own. 

If the SAU is dissolved, the school district that leaves the SAU will be assigned a new number.  For example, SAU #28 would consist of Windham School District if Pelham petitioned to separate.

Because state law requires a school district to belong to an SAU, Pelham School District would be required to form its own.  An SAU would require at least a Superintendent, a Business Manager, some secretarial staff, a Human Resource person, and a Special Education Coordinator, as well as a building to house the SAU.

There is a clearly defined process for withdrawing from a SAU that would require voter input and cannot be simply accomplished by one school board.  However, if Windham petitions to withdraw from the SAU and if the Windham voters support the petition, a report would need to be filed with the New Hampshire Department of Education; a vote on the final separation taken by Windham voters; and then Pelham would have a difficult time stopping the process. 

Pelham would have the right to submit a report showing that the withdrawal of Windham from the joint SAU would be a financial hardship on Pelham and NHDOE might rule that Windham could not withdraw.  However, the petitioning school district is usually allowed to withdraw after a positive town vote to that effect.

Also for discussion are food service concerns and the current status of the Human Resource position replacement. 

Pelham School Board member Linda Mahoney had previously brought a petition warrant article in both Pelham and Windham to determine whether voters wanted the opportunity to vote on the SAU budget.  The warrant articles failed in both Pelham and Windham by a considerable amount.

When asked if she would be bringing the issue to the table at the SAU meeting, Mahoney stated, “My only reason for this petition was to give the voters the opportunity to have a say on whether or not they wanted to vote on the SAU operating budget.  I am satisfied that they were given that opportunity.  I will not be pursuing this.” 

She added, “If both Windham and Pelham School Board members believe the taxpayers have the right to have a say on how their money is spent with regard to the SAU operating budget, then they should bring the question to the voters.  But, I wouldn't hold my breath."

The final agenda will be available after May 12 at the SAU office.

Field Use Agreement Reached for Muldoon Park

by Lynne Ober

Pelham Little League and Razorback Football organizations have reached a Muldoon Park field use agreement with the Town of Pelham.  Under the agreement those two organizations are given priority use of the fields and structures at Muldoon Park.

While the town is responsible for general maintenance of the Muldoon field house, storm damage, fire or any personal liability at those locations, the two leagues will be responsible for keeping the park clean, holding clean up days and be responsible for any damage done by their members.  Parks and Recreation will be responsible for placement and emptying dumpsters on a scheduled basis.

While the town will also be responsible for general field maintenance with the exception of the field lining, both leagues have also participated in field maintenance.

The two organizations agree to carry liability insurance to include coverage of personal property contained within the buildings.

Both groups will also submit facility use forms as well as game and practice schedules to the Parks and Recreation Department and while not granted exclusive rights to Muldoon Park, will be given first choice for field and facility use.

This year the Little League also did work at the field at Lyons Park as part of their clean up and field preparation day.

Selectmen unanimously approved the agreement, which must be renewed annually.

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