Letting It Bee at the Arboretum

Bees aren’t the only ones buzzing about a new center at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum where kids, families, and nature enthusiasts of all stripes will be able to learn about native pollinators.

Helen and Gary Bergren

Helen and Gary Bergren

“Everybody is aware of the issues that honeybees are facing, with loss of habitat, disease, and pesticides,” said Peter Moe, the arboretum’s interim director. “It’s easy to get discouraged and think, ‘There’s nothing I can do,’ but really, the entire purpose of the center is to show people what they can do.”

The Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center, set atop one of the highest points of the 1,200-acre arboretum in Chaska, is designed to engage, educate, and inspire through all five senses. Visitors will stop and smell the flowers in a demonstration garden as they learn about bee-friendly blooms they can plant in their own backyards. They’ll hear winged workers abuzz in hives that University of Minnesota researchers will use to study bees. They’ll taste the results, sampling honey made from different kinds of flowers. And in the center’s Honey House, they’ll see up-close how honey is extracted from honeycomb.

“Anything we can do to make the arboretum a bigger, better place to attract and inform more chilren is a very good thing.”

– Gary Bergren

“We see the honey on the shelves at the grocery store, but we don’t really know where it comes from,” Moe said. With a warming room, extractors and other equipment, the Honey House will enable visitors to explore the entire process of harvesting and bottling honey.

The Honey House was built with help from a grant that Helen and Gary Bergren made from their Donor Advised Fund at The Minneapolis Foundation. For the Bergrens, investing in the new bee center is a way not only to engage visitors in the lives of bees, but to motivate the next generation to help address the challenges facing pollinators. “Anything we can do to make the arboretum a bigger, better place to attract and inform more children is a very good thing,” Gary said.

It’s also a deeply personal gift. The Bergrens are supporting the Honey House in honor of their four grandchildren, who have been coming to the arboretum since they were babies to explore, play, and celebrate birthdays. “They literally learned to walk here,” Helen said. Now, she said, “they’re interested in science and education, and we couldn’t think of a better way to keep this family tradition going.”