Bay­side stu­dents learn about the need for bees

The Kent Island Bay Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

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.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Richard Bew­ley and Dr. Tom Walsh put on their bee suits as they show Bay­side El­e­men­tary School third-graders how they har­vest the honey from their bees on Wed­nes­day, June 7.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

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.

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