Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis

Stream In January

Stream In January

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ag Day at Fairview Middle School

Our Smoky Mountain Beekeeper's group was asked to participate in an Agricultual Awareness Day at a local middle school. We were represented by Al, our president, Tom, our treasurer, Kelley, our outgoing VP and me, new secretary. There were also 9 other organizations representing different areas of agriculture in the area. From 9:00 until 12:00, we talked to about 100 8th graders. The event was well organized with the kids being broken down into about 10 groups of 10 -12. Each group spent 15 minutes at the various stations. The morning started off very foggy and cool, but by 10 had warmed up nicely. Other than our bees, my favorite station were these farmers with their team of mules. All the kids and most of the adults were treated to a good, old-fashioned wagon ride. I always learn something from my fellow beekeepers and on this morning I found a product that I absolutely will buy and keep in my bee bag. Sitting in front of the smoker is a fuel that is a natural fiber product. A little before 9:00, I lit the smoker with 1 match. When we finished at 11:45, the smoker was still going strong. I've been using pine straw and/or cotton strips from old t-shirts, but not anymore. This is awesome stuff. I know it's available in the Dadant catologue and I'm sure from all the others.

Articles from my bag including hat, veil, gloves, hive tool, brush, frame-lifter and smoker. Al's full suit. The teaching hive has 10 frames that shows various stages of bee development, great pictures of a queen and also a bee with varroa. A shame we have to talk about the dreaded V, but it's a fact of life for beekeepers. Also on hand, our observation hive, an extractor, a nuc box and jars of honey.

The kids were a lively and curious bunch as kids this age usually are, and this group wanted to know how the bees got in and out of the box. Above, Kelley agreed to show them the little door on the side but jokingly said she'd kill anyone who tried to open it. She is an awesome beekeeper and was great with the kids. I'm happy to have her as a good friend and mentor. I told her about my "robbing" problem on Wednesday and she confirmed that, just as I thought, bees will attack from the bottom of the hive to get to powdered sugar. This may be one small drawback to treating with sugar shakes, but she is committed to natural beekeeping and, like I am learning, has figured out ways to prevent the sugar from falling under the hive. She currently has 42 hives. All the groups of young people searched for the queen in the observation hive, but she was well hidden this cool morning. I've seen this hive many times when the queen chooses to come out and put on a show and I wish the kids could have seen her. What they did get to observe were the bees fanning to keep the box warm since the morning started out so cool.

We had a great morning and I'm fortunate to be associated with a wonderful group of talented beekeepers. Of course, none of them do things the same way, but are all successful. I've been
chosen to serve on our board of directors and readily agreed to do so. The knowledge I gain from working with these guys is invaluable.

Update on my hives: It was 1:30 before it got back to the house on Thursday and when I checked my hives, everything was back to normal. No more fighting. The bees also seemed much more comfortable with the entrance reducers in place and I've decided to leave them for the winter. Ora still has a stick wedged in the entrance but I do have a real reducer and will replace it this weekend. It's raining today so there are no bees out.

I had a question by email about why I used water on the hive to calm the bees. I had read that it is sometimes possible to discourage a hive from swarming if you make it "rain" with a waterhose. It did drive the bees either back into or away from the hive and I'm convinced gave me enough time to take some of the measures I used to head-off a full scale robbing event.


Ngaio said...

We have an A and P summer show coming up soon, also have a winter show, most towns and cities have these events. They are probably not as strong as they once were, but with the huge interest in sustainability etc happening in NZ, I suspect these shows will attract more people.It looks a really interesting day you had, love the mule rides !
Have woken up to another really beautiful day, sun and blue skies with the bees out and about, I am finding it fun watching both hives go there seperate ways, they each must have their own source of nectar.My TB does not have a mesh base and I left an ordinary frame with some honey on when I first put the bees into the hive, there is so much pollen and nectar happening I didn`t have to feed them anything else. In fact, I have never fed my bees sugar and water, I alway leave alot of honey on the hives over winter - remember, we don`t have the winters you have, it never really gets below 1 to 5 degrees celcius here in the Waikato, rain but not too many frosts.Reading the BareFoot Beekeeper it seems all you need to do if you feed, is put the solution in a shallow dish with twigs in it on the bottom of the hive or somewhere they can get at it.I hope to open the hive later on today - I am both excited and scared - what will I see ???

Anonymous said...

They never had fun things like that when I was coming up. We just had people stand in front of the class and tell riveting stories about being a certified public accountant! Haha! Looks like everyone had fun and the weather held out for you. Good show, Lynn!

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Wow, your group are very organized. I'd like to know where I can get a teaching hive kit too. I'm to be doing presentations to a whole school in the near future and I won't be able to take live bees with me.

Lynn said...

Ngaio - I hope you see lots of beautiful drawn white comb! It's so rainy and dreary here again today, it's hard to even think about beekeeping. Send me some spring!

Mark - I think I mostly slept through those riveting talks. These kids really did have a great time and it got very interesting when local bees started showing up to check out the honey jars and the ob hive. We thought about bringing a frame of capped honey but thought better of that.

Barbara - Here is a link to the Dadant catalogue. They have honeybee study prints that I think you would like. Good luck with your talk. www.dadant.com

Cliff W said...

Isn't it great to see beekeeping having such an impact on the minds of those youngsters? Also, you're lucky to have such a good friend with all that experience with bees.

Incidentally, congratulations on your appointment to the Board. I hope you new secretarial role won't impact on your blogging ;)