Busy as Bees

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Southside students swarm beekeepers’ hive

By Josh Shepherd, News writer


Students in Brooke Kendall’s first grade class at Southside Elementary School were all ‘abuzz’ Friday morning when one of Harrison County’s local bee keepers, Jane Thomas, visited the class with a see-through beehive.

Students were treated to a full presentation about the craft of bee keeping and the basics of a honeybee colony in action.

Thomas had been planning to make this presentation about three weeks ago. She purchased a special type of self-contained see-through pane that would allow students to watch the behavior of the bees inside a hive.

There was a minor setback when abnormally low temperatures the evening before her presentation wiped out the entire small hive in the observation pane.

Fortunately, she was able to get a new hive started in time to make the presentation.

Thomas brought with her the bee keeper’s suit she wears when handling her honey bee hives, the specialized equipment she uses, and she also told the children about how she collects bee swarms.

“The early spring is the time when new hives are formed,” she said. “Most people see them as big balls of bees with the queen at the center. But most swarms cover tree trunks like cicadas do when they first emerge,” Thomas explained

She told the children that these bee swarms are waiting for reports from scout bees which are searching for new locations for the hive.

Bee keepers will either cut a branch or find some other way to drop the majority of the swarm into a large container which can be sealed and transported to a bee hive.

The swarms, she said, are not dangerous as long as people leave them alone. The bees are just looking for a new home and will disappear shortly. 

But if people should see a big swarm of bees, local beekeepers would appreciate hearing about them so that they can add to their hives, she said.

At the end of her presentation, Thomas unveiled the small bee hive and invited the children to look closely at the elegance of the combs where the queen lays her eggs.

She also indicated which bees were worker bees and the larger drone bees whose job it is to fertilize the queen.

Though there was a visible queen in the hive, the children had a difficult time finding the one bee that was a bit larger, longer and more slender than the other bees.

“The queen can be hard to spot in the middle of a hive. She doesn’t look much different from the other bees,” Thomas said.

Some first-graders asked if the queen bee would be wearing a crown, Thomas said.

Thomas said she welcomed new opportunities to visit other classes in the school system to make a presentation.

It is a fascinating experiment in science and the appeal runs across the ages, she said.

 Those who may wish to schedule a time for her to visit a class, she can be reached at 859-235-9828.