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Bassett students decorate homes for buzzing bees
Beekeeper Tim Service of Meadows of Dan and his daughter, Bassett High School art teacher Jessica McAlexander, are seen with bee boxes her students painted. Service took the boxes home to use with his bees. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Tim Service’s bee yard in Meadows of Dan is full of colorful bee boxes, thanks to art students at Bassett High School.
Painting the wooden bee boxes was part of an art project developed by BHS art teacher Jessica McAlexander, who is Service’s daughter. The students worked for a few weeks during the school year to complete the boxes.
Service built and provided the boxes. Each is 16 x 9 1/2 inches on the shorter side and 20 x 9 1/2 inches on the longer side, according to McAlexander.
As part of the project, students had to choose an artist and replicate that artist’s work or style on the boxes, McAlexander said.
Last year, Service read an article in the American Bee Journal about an art class painting boxes for a beekeeper. Once McAlexander found out about the article, she chose to have her Art III students do the same, she said.
Service said the project “is a win-win” because the students were able to create great artwork, and his bees got more distinct boxes.
Bees can recognize shapes, colors and patterns, so painting the boxes means the bees can identify their home hive and know which hive they are supposed to fly back to, Service said.
When all of the boxes look the same, the bees may go into the wrong hive, which can cause the bees to start “robbing” honey from weaker hives, Service said.
As a beekeeper, Service, who has 54 hives, has to do everything he can to “even the playing field” for the bees, he said.
When Service started beekeeping in 1977, he used only white bee boxes. The longer he kept bees, the more he realized that the hives needed a design, he said.
Before the class project, Service painted smiley faces, sunshines and other designs on his bee hives, but the students’ paintings “way surpass” anything he has ever painted, Service said.
Now that the boxes are placed in his bee yard, it’s like an art museum, Service added.
“They (the bee boxes) are just beautiful,” he said.
McAlexander’s Art III students designed 28 bee boxes, she said.
Haley Ferguson, an 11th-grader, chose to replicate Andy Warhol’s paintings of various celebrities.
She chose to feature Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe on her bee boxes.
Because boxes often are stacked on top of one another, some of the bee boxes were designed to be matched together.
Another box was designed by junior Tori Martin to match Ferguson’s. It features Whitney Houston, Bob Marley, Hank Williams Jr. and Elvis Presley.
Ferguson enjoyed choosing which artists she would feature on her box, she said. “I just really like to paint” as well, she added.
When McAlexander first told the students that they would be painting bee boxes, Ferguson thought “it was a cool idea,” she said.
For Brandi Hayzlett, also a junior, the project was different.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said.
On Hayzlett’s boxes are a South American tribal design or Mola design, which features a monkey, turtle and flowers.
In addition to learning about beekeeping through the project, the students also learned more technical painting skills and how to blend colors to form different art styles, McAlexander said.
Also, the students learned about other artists by researching their painting styles and techniques, McAlexander said.