All We Are Saying Is Give Bees A Chance

By Chrissy Clancy and Ken Boyce

Being the town eclectic (i.e., “artsy” person), I spontaneously asked my coworkers to dress like bees in celebration of National Honey Bee Day. I was surprised when they actually did.

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Next, I was shocked when my Save the Bees Fest was a success. And then I was humbled when the Clay Town Board voted unanimously to approve my proposed hive community (read: can I get bees?).

To be fair, the board already (mostly) tolerates a goat(s) at the Christmas tree lighting. But from circumstances best saved for another article arose the non-negotiable rule: “No lions. No fire.” Both of which, I swear, were not in the same program. But no one ever said “No bees.”

After a dear friend recently made a big move to Saulgé, France, she randomly mentioned that her new town kept bees.

“Oh! You must tell the bees you have moved to their town!”

And though I don’t remember clearly, her profound answer was probably, “Oui.”

But that tiny exchange was enough to light a spark.

A Big Bee-Liever
I am a big believer in the idea that whimsy breeds knowledge, and have used this concept in my recreation-program design and implementation for 25 years. Very rarely will you find me creating a program without using the disciplines of movement, music, creative dramatics, visual art, and costuming to introduce a central theme.

As a storyteller, I have always been intrigued by the folkloric concept of telling the bees—the tradition in which the bees are always informed of important events. It intrigued me to think that my friend was lucky enough to have bees right there in her town. She could tell them everything!

And, so, (you know I have to say it …) with a bee in my bonnet, I was off (more off than usual, if you ask around). I began to research bees.

I started by coordinating a bee party for the senior citizens. This turned out to be such a success that I offered a town-wide Save the Bees Fest, complete with hands-on bee projects, an observation hive, bee-centric vendors, music, a beekeeping-education area and, the favorite of the day—Tea with the Queen Bee!

And, although I was learning and researching extensively, I needed professional help. Looking into local apiaries, I had the good fortune to partner with beekeeper Ken Boyce of Chittenango, N.Y.

During research for my events I became aware of some amazing facts:

  • 1/3 of all the food we eat depends on pollination

  • 85 percent of plants exist because of bees.

And some alarming statistics: In the state, annual loss of beehives has been 40 to 50 percent over the last several years. The cause for their demise includes lack of forage, pests and diseases, and pesticides.

The more I read, the more I realized I had found my mission.

Shortly thereafter, in the midst of doing all my fun bee parties, I stumbled upon a swarm of bees on a sunflower in the community gardens I coordinate. It was simply a breathtaking sight. I figured that was a message from the bees.

The bees were telling me!

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Creating A Buzz
At that point I decided to ask the town for an apiary to enhance the current Project Green community gardens. With the backing of Boyce as my professional apiary support, we designed a program of awareness, education, and action.

“The addition of a honey bee colony to the community-garden site will help foster awareness in the importance of insect pollinators in general and honey bees in particular,” Boyce says. “It is hoped that the interest the hive generates will lead to additional public-education programs, including a beekeeping course.”

Legal, liability, and insurance-related issues needed to be addressed while designing the program, as well as important signage, statistics, and general benefits to the community. We were finally prepared to present our program to the town board. The result was a unanimous yes vote, for which I am truly grateful.

Town Supervisor Damian Ulatowski muses, “Without honeybees, where would we bee?” He adds, “This Project Green initiative will help teach community-garden participants and town residents that honey bees are vital to agriculture and are a natural, unseen economy that without, our world would not be what we all enjoy. I wish to thank all those who have dedicated their time and talent to this exciting evolution of … programs.”

Recreation Commissioner Wayne Morris says, “The bee programs provide recreational activities while educating our residents on their important environmental impact.”

And so, there I was, ready to install my new hive community—just like that!

The bees came to live with us on June 9, 2018. We held a Bee Science Fair that day and ended the event by installing Queen Melissa (yes, of course I named her) into her new home.

I’m overwhelmed to think that my friend’s simple comment, subsequent support, and embrace of my crazy notions, all the way from France, have had such an effect on our bees. Because of the Saulgé town bees, we will now be bolstering the town of Clay’s bee population. We’ll be advancing bee education. The bees will be supporting biodiversity and local gardening initiatives and will become a natural inspiration for residents to act as stewards for the environment. Our whimsy will breed awareness and knowledge.

And all because, across the globe—we tell the bees.

Save the bees! Save the world! Follow the town of Clay Hive Community Project on Facebook at

Town of Clay Project: GREEN Community Gardens.

Chrissy Clancy has worked at the town of Clay, N.Y., since 1991 as a children’s theatre director, event coordinator, and community garden co-founder and senior coordinator. She wishes to make a serious difference in the world with her whimsy. Reach her at cclancy@townofclay.or

Ken Boyce has been a beekeeper for the past 18 years. He is past president of the Mid York Beekeepers Association and a member of the Syracuse Beekeepers Club. He helps teach the beginning and advanced beekeeper courses at Cornell Cooperative Extension.