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READ: Teaching Children to Love Bees, Not Fear Them


Several years ago, reports of the declining bee population inspired my partner to keep bees in our yard. Her reasons were mainly practical—not only did she want to support the vanishing bees, she hoped our plum trees might increase their yield. But it took less than one season for my partner to fall in love, and over time the number of hives in our backyard has multiplied from two to 10. At my house this week we know that spring has arrived because my 2-year-old points out the window and yells excitedly: “Bees!”

I consider both of my children lucky to know the honeybees so well. Living with a beekeeper has afforded me a chance to observe how children interact with bees. From what I’ve seen so far, they fall into two distinct camps: those who are fascinated, and those who are afraid.

There are kids who watch in wonder as the honeybees land on the stones in our birdbath and drink water through their delicate tongues, and there are kids who cover their hair with their hands and run away screaming. There are kids who knock on our door to buy a jar of honey and ask to see our bees, and there are kids who will poke a long stick through our fence and bang it against the roof of a hive.

I worry that the child who runs from bees in fear will grow up to be the adult who spots a healthy swarm in her backyard and sprays it with insecticide. I worry that the child who bangs on a hive roof will grow up to be the teenager who knocks over a neighbor’s hive in the middle of the night. These are two kinds of transgressions that happen often in my community, and they are undeserved. Unlike the many varieties of wasps, bees are gentle creatures. They pollinate our crops, make honey, and rarely sting unless provoked.

In recent years, beekeepers have continued to report high annual losses. An annual survey of beekeepers conducted by a partnership that includes the United States Department of Agriculture, released Wednesday, suggested both that significant losses in colonies continue, and that the loss rate in summer has increased. We compensate for this by breeding and replacing our lost colonies year after year. Scientists are no longer concerned that the honeybee’s extinction is imminent, but we are not yet off the hook. The disappearing bees have reminded us that our survival is interdependent. We live in collaboration with other species. A child who squashes bees or runs from them is a child who hasn’t yet learned their value, and it’s our job to teach them.

This might begin by teaching our children what a honeybee looks like. Before my partner brought home our first colony of bees, I was like many adults in that I could not distinguish a honeybee from a bumblebee, and had only the vaguest notion that wasps were a different species entirely. The yellow jacket who is harassing you at the end of summer, trying to take a bite of your ham sandwich, has little in common with the honeybee who is gathering pollen and nectar. Children are capable of making this distinction; like adults, they just need a little guidance.

Teaching children to value the honeybee might also include explaining the phenomenon of swarming, which, contrary to popular belief, is not an angry behavior. Honeybees swarm when their colony has grown healthy enough to divide in two. One half of them remain in the hive to welcome a new queen, while the other half leaves in search of a new home. They fill their bellies with nectar and travel in a cluster to shelter their old queen. The sight of a cluster of bees on a branch in a yard or a park is an opportunity for observation, a lesson about the intelligence of the insect world.

And that is the real lesson the bees offer: as smart as we humans are, we don’t know everything. At my house we can dance to Beyoncé in the living room, but we can’t wiggle our butts in a sequence so precise that it communicates the location of a nectar source three miles away. Bees can.

My partner has a practice that many beekeepers would find silly. Though a typical worker bee lives for only six weeks, in the evening my partner often picks up bees who have grown cold and fallen just outside the entrance to their hive. She collects them in a jar, brings them inside our house to warm them up and later, once they are restored, she returns them to their home. I used to tease her about this. Bees are members of a complex system. They are not individuals, and it struck me as foolish to attend to them as such. But then last week I saw my 6-year-old son crouch in front of a hive at dusk to gather languishing bees in his small hand. In that moment I realized what the bees had taught him — it’s the very lesson we all need to learn: that every small part of the system counts for something.

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HONEYLOVE OUTREACH Volunteer Training!

HoneyLove Outreach

Interested in helping HoneyLove to spread the buzz for bees?

We would LOVE for you to attend our monthly outreach volunteer training session and get all set up with the supplies and tools you need to do event/school outreach!

No experience necessary, just a passion for bees. We’ll teach you what you need to know.

RSVP: Meetup | Facebook

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PHOTOS: School Outreach in Manhattan Beach

Thank you to Susan for doing another awesome school outreach in Manhattan Beach! YAY BEES!

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Join the HoneyLove School Outreach Team!
Interested in helping to spread a buzz for bees at local Los Angeles schools? We are starting a new task force to visit 50 schools in 2014 and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
HoneyLove will provide outreach materials to all volunteers who complete the training!

Contact us and let us know you are interested in learning how to volunteer!

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Bees and Math

Bees and Math

“Bees…by virtue of a certain geometrical forethought…know that the hexagon is greater than the square and the triangle, and will hold more honey for the same expenditure of material. — Pappus of Alexandria

Bees have not studied tessellations theory. However, some of their behavior patterns can be explained mathematically. One such phenomena which mother nature instilled in the bee is the nature to use the least expenditure of energy and materials. The bees somehow know that the square, the triangle and the hexagon are the only three self-tessellating regular polygons. Of the three, the hexagon has the smallest perimeter for a given area. So, when bees are constructing hexagonal prism cells in the hive, they use less wax and do less work to enclose the same space than if tessellating space with prisms of square or triangular bases. The honeycomb walls are made up of cells which are 1/80 of an inch thick, yet can support 30 times their own weight. A honeycomb of 14.5”x8.8” can hold more than five pounds of honey. That also explains why they are so heavy. The bees are creating hexagonal prisms in three rhombic sections, and the walls of the cell meet at exactly 120 degree angles. What is even more amazing, is the fact that the bees work simultaneously on different sections forming a comb with no visible seams. It is built vertically downward, and the bees use parts of their bodies as measuring instruments. In fact, their heads act as plummets.”

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Click above to see some fun kids activities – one of which helps to illustrate why bees build hexagons via

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PATTERN: Bee Bonnet

PATTERN: Bee Bonnet Hat and Leg Warmers with lace via etsy

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HoneyLove School Outreach @ Rancho Vista Elementary School ? 72 kids!! 

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HoneyLove Outreach @ Whole Foods Market Venice - 6/24/12

[click here to see more photos]

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Bring back the Girls & Boy Scout’s Beekeeping badge!!

Click here to see the Girl Scouts junior badge requirements

Sign the petition to bring back the Boy Scout’s badge

[click here to view the original post by Ethnobeeology]

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ARTICLE: Young beekeeper enjoys honey, helps tend hives and isn’t afraid of being stung

Through his white beekeeper’s veil, 8-year-old Sam Shapiro looks down at the delicate black and yellow worker bee that just landed on his chest. “She won’t hurt me,” Sam says. “A lot of kids go psycho when a bee gets near them. But if I just stand still, she’ll think I’m a statue.” Wearing a veil when working with bees is like wearing a helmet when riding your bike… According to Sam, bees make great pets. They are fun to take care of, and they make food for their owners.

Sam has spent his entire life with bees in his family. When he was 2, he would stand at the window and watch his dad (experienced urban beekeeper Milt Shapiro) checking the hives in the side yard of their home in Northwest Washington. When he was 3, he and his dad would sit outside in the summer, admiring the worker bees as they delivered pollen (carried on their back legs “like little puff balls,” Sam says) to the hive…

Each summer, Sam and his dad harvest the honey. “When my dad takes a comb out of the hive,” the Lafayette Elementary third-grader says, “it’s covered with honey. You don’t want to put it on the ground because leaves would stick to it, so my job is to hold it.”

Next, they squeeze the comb into a clean bucket where it will drip honey through a filter for a few days. “The honey drips so slowly,” Sam says, “but you don’t want to waste a drop. It’s worth something even better than money.”

It smells good, too — like standing in a field of freshly cut hay on a bright, breezy summer day.

Finally, Sam and his father open the spout at the bottom of the bucket and pour the honey into glass jars. “I can just feel the honey dripping off my hand,” Sam says. “It’s sticky, and I lick every bit off my fingers. It tastes like heaven.” Later on, he enjoys his heavenly treat by the spoonful, on bread and in gooey sandwiches with peanut butter.

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