Creatures that fly, creep and swim are the focus of new installations at the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island.
An insect house inaugurated this spring and a hands-on classroom opening in the fall will help museum-goers get close to live animals.
Near the screened butterfly enclosure on the museum’s grounds, the insect house is a European idea that has made its way to the Lowcountry. The wooden structure filled with bamboo stalks, hollow tubes and other nesting material provides a shelter for wild bees, wasps, beetles and other insects.
Building artificial nests is one way to attract wild bees, wasps and other non-honey producing pollinators to boost local populations.
“I’m surprised how fast they started using it,” said Rex Garniewicz, the museum’s president and CEO.
The Lowcountry Master Naturalist Association donated money to construct the insect house, and volunteers from that group and the museum helped build it and gather nesting material.
The museum’s new discovery lab, under construction now, is a hands-on classroom that will serve students and others. Honey Horn was once a hunting preserve, and the supervisor’s residence, built in 1898, is being restored to house the discovery lab. Currently, educational programs take place in the museum’s outdoor pavilion.
The new indoor classroom will be air-conditioned and will allow programs to take place comfortably in all types of weather, Garniewicz said.
Live animal programs at the museum include “meet and greet” talks about snakes, raptors, owls, alligators and other species. About 6,000 school children attended museum educational programs last year.
The discovery lab also will include a touch tank filled with marine invertebrates and a functioning honeybee hive in a glass enclosure built and maintained by professional beekeeper David Arnal. He currently has about 10 hives producing fresh local honey on the 68-acre property.
Arnal is the founder of Bees Across America, a nonprofit organization with the mission of providing solutions to the record loss of honeybees and native pollinators. These insects are vital to food security and a sustainable natural environment. Pesticides, the varroa mite and a parasite called nosema are decimating honeybee populations.
Arnal hopes the observation hive on Honey Horn will show visitors that bees are intricate, fragile and important to humans.
Built on the site of former hunting preserve Honey Horn, the Coastal Discovery Museum offers a gorgeous setting to learn about the Lowcountry’s natural history and cultural heritage. The museum’s trails, gardens, art gallery, indoor and outdoor exhibits, butterfly enclosures and Marsh Tacky horses are open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information, call 843-689-6767 or visit www.coastaldiscovery.org.
Carol Weir of Bluffton is a career journalist and teacher.