“The main purpose of this project is to show our pupils the importance of the bees in our environment,” says Jean-Luc Pedro Batista, teacher at Mamer high school. Photo: Lycée Josy Barthel Mamer

“The main purpose of this project is to show our pupils the importance of the bees in our environment,” says Jean-Luc Pedro Batista, teacher at Mamer high school. Photo: Lycée Josy Barthel Mamer

Last term, students at Josy Barthel high school in Mamer studied media literacy with their English teacher. Delano magazine editor-in-chief Natalie Gerhardstein visited the class to speak about journalism and, as a final project for the term, the students wrote investigative articles. We have selected two of these for publication. This one is by 17-year-old Jiayi Ye.

The “LJBee” programme, built around a collection of beehives introduced last year at the Lycée Josy Barthel Mamer (“LJBM”), is meant to educate students about the importance of bees in our environment. Like bees everywhere, however, these bees are threatened by climate change.

Bees have a hierarchy and activities to follow. Each hive has about 50,000 bees with one queen and about 100 female worker bees for every male drone bee. The queen’s job is to lay eggs and a drone’s job is to mate with the queen. The female worker bees are responsible for everything else. They gather nectar, guard the hive and honey, and care for the queen and larvae while also keeping the hive clean and producing honey.

Each bee has only one purpose in life. The queen is like a goddess, her whole life committed to selfless service by being the reproductive centre of the hive. She lays about 1,500 eggs per day and around 200,000 per year. She is the most important living being in a hive--without a queen, the life of the worker bees would grow chaotic and the hive would die or try to make a new queen, which most likely would fail.

A male drone’s purpose in life is to mate with the queen. There are around 100 female worker bees that take care of them because drones are incapable of feeding themselves or foraging for food. In the cold winter days, they will get kicked out of the hive, leaving them to starve because the queen does not mate during the winter. These male drones become useless.

“A man can work from sun to sun, but a women’s work is never done.” This quote from Canadian author Jean Little describes exactly the state in the hive.

All in all, there is only one queen, tens of thousands of female workers, and anywhere from several hundreds to several thousand male drones.

Diseases and climate change

“Warm winters caused by climate change are threatening [to bees] because the bee colony does not go into hibernation, so it uses a lot of energy [but] without nectar and pollen from flowers,” says Jacques Pir, a biology teacher at the LJBM and, since 1995, a beekeeper.

And the climate is slowly but surely changing: the planet rang in 2022 with a warm January--the sixth warmest in 143 years of climate records--and December 2021 was also one of the warmest Decembers on record. That is a major headache for beekeepers because their bees are losing track of time. In fact, the bees can no longer assess whether the winter is there or not. This causes them to eat all the honey which they have stored in the hive and leaves them with no food during the winter.

“The cold is not a problem for the bees if their colony is healthy and big enough,” says Roland Ries, a 37-year-old beekeeper from Luxembourg with 40 bee colonies. However, he explains, there are other problems like varroa mites, which are tiny red-brown parasites. These varroa mites can reproduce larvae and pupae in the hive and can cause the malformation and weakening of honeybees as well as the transmission of numerous viruses. A beekeeper also must look after the queen and pay close attention to the stockage of nectar.


To help the environment, Lycée Josy Barthel Mamer introduced last year a project called “”. This project is part of the school development plan. The idea came from Jean-Luc Pedro Batista, 33, who is a teacher at the LJBM. He started beekeeping a year ago and thinks that bees are very fascinating insects. He says that he can discover something new every week because the hive is still growing, and that the bees are developing their own character.

Biology teacher Pir explains that the school’s bees come from a professional beekeeper, Georges Gidt, a retired beekeeper from the Capellen Bee Club. Gidt does the main work like taking care of the bees and giving courses for interested pupils and teachers. “Georges Gidt explains his job very well,” says Pedro Batista, adding that the professional was also chosen “because of his kindness and the quality of his organic honey”.

The LJBM started with two hives which grew quickly and soon they introduced three other hives. The project uses boxes for the bees that are made for the easier keeping and harvesting of honey, wax and propolis, a resin that the bees collect and use to strengthen the hive. Pir adds: “From experience, I can report that starting to work with bees is easier in such a hive”.

Other beekeeping models include the “Hollenfels” and the “Steez-Tower”, which are hives that allow the bees to live in a more natural habitat. They also provide the beekeeper with a good view of the bees, but “an inexperienced beekeeper could not keep these hives alive,” says Ries. “Maybe next year, as part of the ‘Save Our Planet’ programme, we could build a hive like the Steez-Tower with the students,” adds Pir. He thinks that if the students and teachers gain more experience and learn more about the bees then we could keep these bees alive. He would support such a project.

The bees at the LJBM are also surrounded by plants, grassland and many flowers. “The bees can collect enough nectar in the five kilometres around the school, and most of the tamed honeybees find enough food in Luxembourg,” says Pedro Batista. Under these circumstances, the bees do not have to fear about not finding enough nectar. The school has also built a fence around the hives so that they are protected from children and other animals.

“The main purpose of this project is to show our pupils the importance of the bees in our environment,” says Pedro Batista. Bees have an important role in the development of our natural environment. Pedro Batista thinks that it is almost impossible to imagine fruit trees and other flowers not being pollinated by bees. “Without them, nature would grow very slowly, and I ask myself if there would be enough food for all animals and humans,” he says.