Buzzing about: ‘Honeybees in the Heartland’ makes Nemaha County the place to bee

“Apis Mellifera” at Gazebo Park in Johnson. The bee was designed by Kristin Rodenburg.

They buzz about Nebraska from spring through fall. People tend to fear being stung by them. In reality, they only want to help pollinate plants and make honey. You don’t need to fear the 26 honeybees fluttering about Nemaha County in southeast Nebraska. The public art project celebrates the state’s insect. Locating the bees and posing for selfies makes for a fun day trip.

Auburn, Nemaha County’s seat, is the primary spot for the honeybees, with 19 of the impressively-designed art pieces. Nearby Johnson has two honeybee sculptures, while the village of Julian is home to one. Peru has two sculptures, though a third can be found in the front yard of Moody Farm on Highway 67 a few miles outside Peru. The final one is located in Brownville. More than 15 artists worked on the project, which will be on display through Oct. 31.

"Bee-casso" by Terry Van Gundy.
“Bee-casso” by Terry Van Gundy.

The honeybee has a special connection to Auburn. In 1974, Auburn third-graders recommended the honeybee as Nebraska’s official state insect. Governor J. James Exon signed the legislation into law the following year.

Where to get a Map

When you arrive in Auburn, stop at El Portal restaurant or Cafe Metro to pick up a map of the honeybees. While there, check out the honeycomb art pieces decorated by area artists or buy a plain one to paint yourself. Honeybees in the Heartland is part of the 2020 Visit Nebraska passport program. You can have your passport stamped at El Portal.

"Bee Great!" by artist Tony "Once" Boettjer. The bee is at home at Johnson's Sportsman's Park.
“Bee Great!” by artist Tony “Once” Boettjer. The bee is at home at Johnson’s Sportsman’s Park.

Honeybees in the Heartland strives to bring attention to the decline of honeybees in the world. Nature – and humans – need bees to survive and grow their populations. Through pollination, they help plants grow, and, in return, help the world’s food supply. But, their survival is threatened with the loss of their natural habitat and pesticides. As scientists work to find ways to save them, Nebraska artists are doing their part by bringing attention to the crisis through art.

Take the Honeybee Challenge

As you travel around Nemaha County, you’ll feel challenged to find all 26 bees. That’s part of what makes the road trip fun. And you’ll be challenged. While most of the honeybees are located in very public locations, a few can be difficult to find. But, that adds to the fun.

TIP: In Auburn, the honeybee at Ariens Disc Golf Course can be found at 14th and Q Streets. You’ll need to take Highway 136 west to P Street. Turn south (left, if driving from downtown) then right at the next stop sign. You’ll find the “Community” honeybee waiting for you at the corner.

"Bee Free" honors American veterans at Legion Park. The piece was designed by Suki Fischer.
“Bee Free” honors American veterans at Legion Park. The piece was designed by Suki Fischer.

While each honeybee is special in its own way, a few stand out from the others. In Auburn, “Bee Free” joins the veterans memorial at Legion Memorial Park, along Highway 75, the city’s main street. “Follow Your Bee” celebrates agriculture and can be located at Union Bank. “As the Bee Does” shows a honeybee atop a flower.

Outside Auburn

Outside Auburn, “The Land that we Built” is located in the front yard of Moody Farms on Highway 67, on the south side (right) as you’re headed to Peru from Auburn. In Johnson, “Bee Great!” showcases a honeybee ready to play atop a baseball at Sportsman’s Park. “Little Queen Bee” is in Julian.

"The Land that we Built" was created by Molly Moody and is displayed at Moody Farm.
“The Land that we Built” was created by Molly Moody and is displayed at Moody Farms.

TIP: When looking for “Goldenrod” at Peru State College, you’ll find it between the Student Center and TS Majors Building.

As you spend the day – it took us about five hours to complete our adventure – consider having lunch or dinner at any of the 11 restaurants in Auburn. Due to Covid-19, some eateries may be take-out only. If that’s the case, grab your meal and head for Legion Park, where there is plenty of space to enjoy an outdoor meal.

You can learn more about Honeybees in the Heartland and find updates here.