Bayside students learn about bees
STEVENSVILLE — The third grade classes of Bayside Elementary School knew that bees stung people not because they don’t like humans, but because they felt scared. They also knew that, though the honey some species of bees produce taste sweet and delicious, bees don’t make it for humans.
During the penultimate day of the school year, the third grade classes of Mary Robin Scherer and Amanda Legg were treated with a guest visit by Dr. Tom Walsh and Richard Bewley, Queen Anne’s County bee experts.
Dressed from head to toe in protective gear, such as one would wear when handling a colony of bees, the students listened to and interacted with Walsh and Bewley as they dove into some of the facts about what makes bees so important.
Correctly guessing when asked, one student said if no bees were alive humans would be in big trouble because for vegetation to grow it needs to be pollinated, a process the yellow and black flying critters make a living out of.
The strawberries that grow in fields, peanuts, celery, cherries and everything in between all needed pollen in order for them to grow, the two said. Walsh said one-third of the food that humans eat bees have had a hand in helping grow.
The three types of honey bees Walsh and Bewley spoke about—male, female and the queen bee—all had important jobs to do on a daily basis. The queen, which rarely leaves the hive, is in charge of keeping the colony a healthy size by reproducing every year, while both the male and female bees work to serve. Walsh said though the males do work a bit, it’s not nearly as much as the women.
As local bee keepers, Walsh and Bewley said at the end of summer when the bees have filled their bee boxes—filled with upwards of 50,000 bees—with honey, the two take and bottle some but not all of the sweat liquid.
But before the bee keepers can harvest the honey, the bees have to work to create it. Flying back and forth from plant to plant collecting pollen, the bees spend their summer locating flowers and making honey so during the off-season they have something to eat.
To find the vegetation, Walsh said can be as far away as five miles—about from the school grounds to Grasonville, he said. Using the sun as a compass, the bees fly around, find pollen, and come back to the hive to tell the other bees where they got it from.
Walsh and Bewley said to communicate to the other bees the critters use two types of dances to give directions and distances.
Before handling the bees to gather their product, Walsh said the bee keepers have to follow rules. One major rule is not to enter the bee hive on a cloudy day as the bees get disoriented due to the lack of sunlight.
To not get stung as they extract the honey, smoke is sprayed to mask the pheromones bees produce when they feel threatened. Walsh called the “perfume” bees release is called “danger, danger,” as it warns the other bees of the situation.
Once the honey combs are collected, bee keepers use tools to scratch the combs off to open the small cells filled with honey, place it in a machine that spines fast and then opens a valve that drips out the honey.
After the honey is collected, Walsh said bee keepers bottle it up and give it to their best friends and family to enjoy.
Though the product bees produce is sweet, Walsh said the treatment of the male bees at the end of summer is anything from sweet and kind. Because the males eat all the honey and didn’t work as much, the female bees kick out the males for winter, causing many of them to die.
The bees that remain in the hive during the cold months, the two said, huddle in a cluster around the queen bee and constantly vibrate to keep her warm.
As spring rolls around again, the queen lays eggs and the process is repeated.
While the presentation was going on, students were given honey sandwiches to enjoy.
Walsh has continued the tradition of harvesting honey that was started with his father many years ago.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
Bayside Elementary School students in Mary Robin Scherer and Amanda Legg’s third-grade classes were given a bee presentation Wednesday, June 7, by Dr. Tom Walsh, right, and Richard Bewley.