Making new beekeepers

Backwards Beekeeper Sam writes:
My son Eli recently took some freshly drawn honeycomb to his second grade class for show-and-tell. This prompted the predictable, “Wow - your dad is a beekeeper? That came out of YOUR backyard? That is SO cool.” Kids and insects: a natural combination!

His teacher asked me if I could come in and do a little presentation about bees. How could I not be thrilled for the opportunity? I borrowed an nice little observation hive from Kirkobeeo, loaded it up with a frame of busy workers, donned my veil and gloves, and headed down the street to Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary.

Walking into the classroom suited up was a great way to get the kids’ attention and start the discussion. Many wanted to try on the veil, so it and the gloves made the rounds. I asked what they know about bees: honey, hives, and stings, naturally. We talked about pollination and how bees are crucial to our food supply, and that one out of every three bites on your plate would disappear without bees. Everybody got a dab of honey on a popsicle stick to taste. Teacher Ms. Iffrig really liked it when I talked about girl power and how female bees perform all the work of the hive and outnumber the boys 100:1.

I passed around some empty comb so the kids could see how lightweight it is and we discussed what amazing engineers bees are, creating a structure that can support forty times its mass. That led to talk about the powerful mathematical skills of our apiarian friends and how they’ve evolved over 100 million years to be very good at solving the “traveling salesman” (most efficient forage route) problem. I’m pretty sure I lost ‘em on that one.

But then I brought out the bees and I had them all back. I thought the kids might be apprehensive, but they were fearless - every student wanted to get face to face with the bees! There was much jockeying for position, and everyone had plenty of questions. I encourage my fellow beekeepers to get out there and do some of this outreach. The look on those young faces is the best gift ever.

Sam Dlugach
Burbank CA
Nov. 2010