Honeybees coming to the Clark, funding campaign ongoing

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WILLIAMSTOWN - Think of it as Plan Bee.

By the end of May, there could be more buzz about the Clark Art Institute than usual due to roughly 45,000 more bees pollinating the art museum's expansive landscape.

As of Friday, The Clark had generated more than $9,469 from 145 donors to a Kickstarter campaign to install and maintain a bee hive on top of a campus building.

The campaign began March 1 and ends March 20. Any further funds donated will go towards maintaining the hives over the long term, noted Vicki Saltzman, director of communications at the Clark.

Olivier Meslay, the new Clark director, got the idea soon after he arrived last July, Saltzman noted.

"He thought bees would be a great addition to the other green initiatives we have brought to the campus," she said. "It was one of the very first things he thought about when he arrived here."

Bees have been dying off in the U.S. due to environmental changes, wide use of pesticides and destruction of bee habitats. It is a growing problem for food production because without honeybees pollinating trees, shrubs, and flowers, food crops suffer. Recently seven species of domestic bees were identified as endangered.

"The relationship between art and nature is central to the Clark's mission and is always foremost in our thoughts," Meslay said in a statement. "We take our responsibility as stewards of our lands very seriously. We have an ideal setting to provide a haven for bees and we hope our friends and neighbors will join us in funding this project."

BEEKEEPER'S HELP

When the plan was brought to Grounds Manager Matthew Noyes, he was immediately on board. He had been thinking about the same thing.

"I had been thinking about it because it was something we had done at my previous place of employment," Noyes said. "I wasn't hard to convince."

Noyes enlisted the help of Clarksburg beekeeper David Thayer, who agreed to install the hives on the roof of the Manton Research Center. The $8,000 collected in donations will pay for the hive structures, the installation, and three 3-pound boxes of bees, each containing roughly 15,000 honeybees.

The hives will be installed soon. Their new occupants should arrive in May.

"We are more than an art museum," Noyes said. "And having bees on the campus adds another layer to what already makes this place special."

As part of the project, 1,000 crocus bulbs donated by Clark Trustee Dena Hardymon and her husband will be planted in the fall. They will add to the food sources available to the bees in early spring on the 140-acre campus. It is anticipated that within two years, the Clark could be harvesting honey from the hives for sale in the gift shop and for use in the Clark kitchens.

The bees come in screened and sealed boxes.

Thayer, a member of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association, said that since they are sealed in boxes, getting them through building, up the elevator and onto the roof won't be a problem.

"That's the easy part," he said.

Reach staff writer Scott Stafford at 413-496-6301.


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