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Creating a buzz in Charlottetown

Phase 2 of the bee house project behind the Charlottetown Research Centre involved building this honeycomb-shaped amphitheatre that features seating (not pictured). The site will act as an interpretive centre for schools and anyone else in learning more about honeybees. Grand opening will be in the spring. Pictured are, from left, beekeeper Bruce Smith, and Shallyn Murray, centre, and Silva Stojak of BGHJ Architects of Charlottetown.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Phase 2 of the bee house project behind the Charlottetown Research Centre involved building this honeycomb-shaped amphitheatre that features seating (not pictured). The site will act as an interpretive centre for schools and anyone else in learning more about honeybees. Grand opening will be in the spring. Pictured are, from left, beekeeper Bruce Smith, and Shallyn Murray, centre, and Silva Stojak of Nine Yards Studio, formerly known as BGHJ Architects. ©THE GUARDIAN - Dave Stewart

It may be the middle of winter outside, but the bees are still buzzing in Charlottetown.

Nine Yards Studio in Charlottetown, formerly known as BGHJ Architects, has designed two impressive-looking hexagon bee houses behind the Charlottetown Research Centre (just off the Confederation Trail) that look like mini space ships.

They stand about 14 feet high and each houses about 60,000 bees. On a nice day, they can be seen flying out of the structures and, if a person listens very quietly, they can be heard buzzing inside.

BGHJ Architects in Charlottetown have teamed up with local beekeepers to construct and operate two interpretive bee hexagons behind the Charlottetown Research Centre. Each of those hexagons in the background contain hives with 60,000 honeybees.  ©THE GUARDIAN - Dave Stewart
BGHJ Architects in Charlottetown have teamed up with local beekeepers to construct and operate two interpretive bee hexagons behind the Charlottetown Research Centre. Each of those hexagons in the background contain hives with 60,000 honeybees. ©THE GUARDIAN - Dave Stewart

Phase one began in 2016 involving the actual hexagon structures that would house the bees. Phase 2 has just been completed involving an amphitheatre designed like honeycombs that will play into the educational component.

The beehive project aims to educate Islanders on the importance of honeybees and to bring awareness about their situation. The hives don’t exist primarily to produce honey. They’re looked at more for the educational component.

Shallyn Murray and Silva Stojak of Nine Yards Studio, formerly known as BGHJ Architects, are the brains behind the project.

“We kind of wanted to use architecture to spread an important message in the community, and one of those ideas was drawing attention to bees and the importance of bees on the Island,’’ said Murray. “It kind of evolved into these large beehive sculptures which would act both as a home for the bees and also as a tool that the public could come and learn about bees, kind of a more hands-on approach to bee education.’’

They also wanted to make a splash with the public, which is why the beehive structures stand 14 feet high.

Programming is being developed for school classes.

To help with the actual bees, Murray and Stojak brought in beekeepers Bruce Smith and John Brehaut. Brodie Chappell is the carpenter responsible for building the actual structures. They had some smaller colonies the first year while Wyman’s donated the much larger hives that are there now.

Right now, the hives themselves, located inside the hexagon structures, are tightly insulated to protect the bees from the harsh winter temperatures.

Smith has been involved, off and on, in the bee business for 25 years and currently keeps bees in Morell and sells honey at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market.

“It’s an opportunity for people to see the bees up close without any possibility of getting stung,’’ Smith said. “The hives have those plexiglass (windows) so people can see the bees working. The windows, right now, are only on one side. We’re going to put more windows on the outside of the building so people will be able to see both sides of the hive.’’

For safety purposes, a ring of nylon rope blocks people from getting too close to the area where the bees enter and exit the hexagon structures.

“When you go around to the back of the hive (where the plexiglass is) the bees aren’t interested in people at all,’’ Smith said.

Murray said the next step is to get some signage up inside and outside the hexagons in preparations for the grand opening this spring.

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