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“What’s the Buzz?: Keeping Bees In Flight”

Check out this new book “What’s the Buzz?: Keeping Bees In Flight” written by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox!

What’s the Buzz?: Keeping Bees in Flight is part of the Orca Footprints series, a middle grade nonfiction series meant to encourage ecological literacy and global solutions to ongoing environmental issues. What’s the Buzz? celebrates bees and encourages young readers to do their part to keep bees in flight.

“[A] thorough and fascinating look at these insects…Wilcox, who describes her own foray into beekeeping in the introduction, raises and answers…questions in easy prose. Great photos of kids, bees, and hives enhance the text…A useful option for science teachers and students curious about bees and ecology.”
—School Library Journal

More details and reviews available on

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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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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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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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ARTICLE: Beekeeping: a hive of activity for the young

“’The bottom line is that understanding the bee is a way to understand nature – the pollination process and the food chain,” says Andrew Pendleton, head of the Bee Cause campaign. “Surprisingly enough, bees are flourishing in urban environments. This could be due to the lower amounts of pesticides used in cities, or the fact that bee-friendly gardens are clustered together, so bees do not need to travel as far.”

“Beekeeping is incredibly popular among the young,” he says. “At BuzzWorks we allow them to collect the honey, and dip their hand in warm wax and watch it congeal into a glove. Our observation hive has them completely absorbed, watching the steady movement of the bees and pointing out the queen. It is an opportunity for them to learn where their food comes from.”

It is important, he says, that people learn to bond with bees in their childhood. “When people become young adults, they might put beekeeping to the back of their minds,” he says. “But later, when they reach their thirties and are a bit more established, they might recall their first experiences and take it up again. That’s why providing that early exposure is so vital.”

Article by Jake Wallis Simons | Photos by MARTIN POPE
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HoneyLove outreach at New Roads School
Los Angeles, CA – 02/17/12

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Questions for HoneyLove from the 2nd graders at Wildwood School in Mar Vista:

Are pesticides bad for bees?
How long does a queen bee live?
How do you raise a baby bee?
Why do bees buzz?
What do bees eat?
What is their life-cycle?
Do they go through metamorphosis?
Why are the bees dying?
How are the bees dying?
How do bees make their hives?
How long do bees live?
How do you take a bee out of a yard?
What tools do you use?
How do you keep them from running away?
How do you know if they are your bees?
Why are people killing bees?
How do bees make honey?
What types of bees sting?
What eats bees?
What time of the day do bees go to work?
Where are beehives located?
If the beekeepers have questions, who do they ask?
Do all bees really die if they sting you?
How do beekeepers keep from getting stung?
How fast do bee wings move?
How many types of bees are there?
Who is their enemy?
Does every bee have a hive?
Is there a king bee?
What plants do bees like most?
How big can bees get?
How many bees can there be in one hive?
What do you do if a bee stings you?
How much nectar can one bee collect?
Why do you use a steamer?
Who makes baby bees?
What’s your favorite kind of honey?
What’s your favorite kind of bee?

and my favorite…

Why do bees have fuzzy tummies?

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WHAT: Help fund “Vanishing of the Bees” - 30 min. Educational Version

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