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Bee-hold the Honey Bees

The first live observation beehive housed within a library in the State of Georgia.

Stock photo

Story and photos by Katherine Lacksen Mahlberg

Did you know that about one-third of the food consumed by Americans is pollinated by honey bees? Next time you sit down for a meal, keep that in mind especially as you bite into your apples, almonds, and watermelon, to name just a few. Honey bees are important and intriguing insects. However, because of their stinger and the pain it can inflict, they can be intimidating to observe up close.

Fortunately for those living in or visiting the Lake Country, the Sparta-Hancock County Library is home to the first live observation beehive housed within a library in the State of Georgia. This indoor hive is open to the public and utilized for educational purposes. In 2019, members from the Lake Country Beekeepers Association (LCBA) and the Sparta-Hancock County Library were awarded a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to install the observation hive at the library. The hive has become a vibrant local attraction for both beekeepers and the general public to encourage personal beekeeping and demonstrate the importance of honey bees in a healthy ecosystem and for our food supply. 

Visitors enjoy watching the bees at the Sparta-Hancock County Library recently. Photo by Katherine Mahlberg

When you visit the library, you will notice that the observation hive is located in the back corner room of the building. This position gives the honey bees uninterrupted outdoor access through the wall of the library while keeping the honey bee flight traffic well above any parking areas and walkways. Safety is of utmost importance. All library staff received training and education around the observation hive and love sharing their knowledge and the “Bee Room” with visitors as they observe the tiny insects behind the secured glass paneling. Library patrons often prefer the Bee Room because of the soothing background noise and “hum” that the honey bees provide while studying, reading, or working.

What makes an observation hive so wonderful is that visitors can observe the honey bees without having to suit up in traditional beekeeping personal protective equipment. This minimizes the risk of getting stung and having to travel to a bee yard also known as an apiary. Since the observation hive is located indoors, guests can enjoy the honey bees regardless of the weather conditions. It takes some practice to identify the three different types of honey bees (workers, drones, and of course, the queen) so being in a comfortable environment certainly makes for an enjoyable and educational experience. You will also get close up views of the wax comb which the honey bees utilize for storing pollen, nectar, and honey. Sit and watch the behavior of the honey bees long enough and you might see the queen laying eggs, honey bees returning with pollen on their hind legs, and even catch sight of a baby honey bee emerging from the capped wax comb!

Crafts, books and other honeybee-themed fun are available at the library as well. Photo by Katherine Mahlberg

The Bee Room is full of additional resources that visitors can enjoy such as honey bee biology books geared towards all ages, beekeeping tools, painted education hive equipment, and other resources provided by the Whole Kids Foundation. LCBA members and library staff offer special programs throughout the year including an “Introduction to Beekeeping” short course, “Meet the Beekeeper” visits, and an annual National Honey Day event every August. The Lake Country Beekeepers Association holds their monthly club meetings at the library on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. These meetings are open to the public if you’d like to continue learning about honey bees and beekeeping after your visit to the hive.

Members of the Lake Country Beekeepers Association provide information to anyone interested in becoming a beekeepers.

With the support of the Lake Country Beekeepers Associations and the Sparta-Hancock County Library, the observation hive has been instrumental in achieving local and statewide recognition for the beekeepers club and library. The observation hive provides an accessible, educational, safe, and fun experience for visitors of all ages to come and learn about the importance of honey bees. For all these reasons, I highly recommend you make the short drive to the Sparta-Hancock County Library to visit the honey bees and check out the first ever library observation hive within the state of Georgia.

The Observation Honey Bee Hive

Sparta-Hancock County Library

8984 East Broad Street

Sparta, GA 31087

 Library Phone Number: (706) 444-5389


-       Indoor observation hive with live honey bees

-       Honey bee room

-       Beekeeping equipment

-       Beekeeping books and educational resources

-       Outdoor honey bee hives

-       Monthly Lake Country Beekeepers Association Meetings

-       Handicap accessible

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This story appeared in Lakelife magazine, Volume 18, Issue 1 and is the property of Smith Communications, Inc. No portions of the story or photos may be copied or used without written consent from the publisher.


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