Children buzzing with bee knowledge
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Aug 19, 2014, 10:26
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The children inspect the hive and ask all about what the bees are busy doing while they are buzzing away.
CHESTERFIELD — Children at the Chester Library were buzzing with excitement over the lesson on bees Saturday morning. The kids tasted honey, learned the different role of bees in a hive, and even saw bees hard at work.
Kristi Orcutt, co-founder, and Sarah Buckley, vice-president, of the Rockwood Park Backyard Bee Keepers, asked the children who was a beekeeper. Not a single hand was raised.
“If you have a garden, you’re a beekeeper,” Orcutt said.
Orcutt and Buckley also had the children participate in various hands-on activities to aid in the lesson on bees, such as arm wrestling for queen bee. The children also tasted honey, which was a crowd favorite, and pollen, which was not as popular.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the lesson came when Buckley and Orcutt showed the children part of their bee hive, a frame that was home to what appeared to be thousands of bees. Buckley said as many as 10,000 can live in the hive.
The children gathered around the hive, asking questions and never taking their eyes off the busy bees.
Orcutt said the impact of bees is a great one, with one out of every three bites of food being attributed to bees. The bee population has declined, an impact that could be felt in the years to come.
“There’s a 35 percent loss in bees every year,” she said. “That’s huge losses. A normal farmer could not stay in business year after year if they lost 35 percent of their crop every year.”
Orcutt, who said there are 500 species of bees native to Virginia, said a loss in bees represents a loss in fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We won’t die if honeybees disappear. We won’t have nothing to eat but we’ll have less to eat and less nutritional foods to eat,” she said.
For Orcutt, that was enough to conquer her fear of insects and become a beekeeper, a fear that took her almost two years to overcome.
Orcutt said the answer to what is causing the loss in bees is not quite known but studies on bees have shed a light onto some of the issues.
“Not just pesticides but chemicals in general,” she said. “Evaluations of bees’ bodies have revealed a single bee to have has many as 200 or more chemicals in their fat tissues, in a single bee.”
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT
The chemicals that are being used on plants are being spread throughout the entire plant, even to the pollen and nectar, which get taken back to the hive to be fed to the young.
“Over time what we’re seeing is an accumulation of chemicals,” Orcutt said. “Wing deformities, neurological deformities ... not as resistant to diseases when they come along. They become a little bit weaker, die more easily.”
During the program Orcutt told the children that “we’re lucky to get two years out of a queen bee,” when normally their life span is five years.
Orcutt said it is OK to have bugs in the yard and around the plants.
“Maybe understanding that we need a diversity of insects for a healthy food supply so we can a little more tolerant of a little bit of munching on our plants,” she said, recommending that gardeners just plant a little more so if a few are lost, there will be more in their place.
Buckley said in lieu of using potentially harmful pesticides to instead use vinegar or soapy water to kill weeds, which she said is just as effective. She also recommended horticultural oils as alternatives.
“We really do need a little bugginess in our lives,” Orcutt said. “If we step back and give nature just a little bit more time, the good predators bug is going to take out the bug that’s giving us problems.”