Hovering over the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s gardens, the black-and-yellow swarm buzzed with anticipation as workers busily put the finishing touches on their new home.
The soon-to-be completed Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center, on its hilltop site, is the latest addition to the arboretum’s landscape of more than 1,200 acres.
The bee center will be the outreach arm of the University of Minnesota’s Bee and Pollinator Research Lab. There, people will have the chance to learn about bee research at the U with the help of its Bee Squad, said Marla Spivak, professor of entomology.
“I’m really hoping the public gains even more of an appreciation for our bees as important pollinators,” Spivak said. The bee center, she added, “provides a linkage between the St. Paul campus and the arboretum.”
The center will be surrounded by plants and crops pollinated by bees. “We are teaching people what they can do in their own yards to make a better environment for bees,” said Peter Moe, the arboretum’s interim director.
The $6.5 million bee center is part of the arboretum’s $60 million capital campaign, which will end in September. The campaign also calls for transforming the arboretum’s red barn, adjacent to the bee center, into an exhibit site for interactive programs.
The arboretum is in the process of building a road to connect Three Mile Drive to the pollinator center and the existing Farm Garden and Red Barn “outdoor museum.” It will expand its tree collection and add more gardens along the drive up to the bee center.
“We are opening up an entirely new area of the arboretum,” Moe said.
The nonprofit institution itself is undergoing change: It’s searching for a new director, and interviews with three finalists for the job begin June 20.
‘Everything tied together’
The bee center, which will be open year round, will give visitors a firsthand look at bees and a chance to learn more about the pollinators. They also will be able to watch beekeeping demonstrations from the U Bee Squad.
The interactive center will feature zones for flowers, wild bees, honeybees and monarch butterflies.
It will include a classroom, hot rooms for honey extraction and an on-site apiary for beehives. The exhibit hall was built as a hexagon to reflect the shape of cells in a hive.
Sandy Tanck, manager of interpretation at the arboretum, said she wants visitors to have a better understanding of the life of a pollinator.
“It’s the idea that everything is tied together, all interconnected,” she said.
The capital campaign is part of an effort to boost attendance at the arboretum, which saw nearly 356,000 visitors by June 5 last year. Since the start of the arboretum’s fiscal year in July 2015, attendance has reached more than 426,000 visitors.
Arboretum officials hope that the “Big Bugs” exhibit opening June 18 will raise attendance numbers even more.
The Hsiao Chinese Garden Walk is another initiative the arboretum hopes will draw the public. The walk will offer a tranquil environment with a wetland pond and landscape filled with weeping willows and peonies.
On June 5, the arboretum unveiled its dog commons to the public. The on-leash dog trail is a part of the arboretum’s nature-based therapeutic services. The arboretum now offers dog memberships.
“Our members and visitors always wonder what we are going to do next year,” Moe said.