I was invited to speak with the children participating in the Solon Summer-Rec program yesterday, so I pulled a couple of frames of bees and their Queen from a hive and put them into the observation hive and my younger son and I went off to talk about bees. Teaching folks about the importance of pollinators is one of the things that drives me, and groups of children are especially fun to bring the observation hive into.
This was the last day of their program and there hadn’t been any swimming lessons so the twenty or so K-6th graders were a bit rowdy by the time I arrived at noon. Getting them to settle down and listen to any length of lecturing was something akin to trying to wrangle a group of stray cats.
Enter my 9 year old son (for security reasons I refer to him as “Summer” here on the blog) whom I’d brought along with me promising he could teach the group some of the things he’d learned about bees since his crazy mamma had begun her bee-project. He picked the perfect topic: “Bee stings.”
One of the largest reasons folks of all ages are wary or afraid of bees is related to the fear of being stung. So Summer put on the child-sized gloves and veil to demonstrate for the group of children the kind of gear that beekeepers wear to protect themselves, and he talked about why bees sting─the fact that it’s a defense mechanism and that the bee’s “guts” come out with the stinger when they do it, so the bee dies. Summer explained that the best way to avoid getting stung when you’re outside playing and see a bee is to simply “ignore it”, leave it alone. But if you do get stung─he told the kids they could make a baking soda paste, or find plantain growing nearby and chew that up to put on the sting-site. He went on to explain that using plantain is much like what the orangutans do (Summer has a passion for orangutan conservation─dunno where he gets that from, lol) when they chew up this particular type of berry to put on their wounds. And he made sure that the children knew that all of the bees they see out working flowers are girl-bees, because the males are only there to mate with the Queen and in the fall they’re kicked from the hive and die.
The chaotic group of children were very attentive while Summer spoke and when he was finished I tried to pick it up and get some other points across. We talked about who the pollinators are, what pollination is and why it’s important, and I briefly touched on some of the issues plaguing bees.
By that point the kids were losing interest so we just proceeded to answer questions about the bees inside the observation hive; I was able to point out the Queen for them, who was busily laying eggs as she should be and told them a bit about her job and role in the hive. One little boy asked about how long it took the bees to hatch and so I was able to explain a bit about the honeybee life-cycle and pointed out the larvae curled up in some of the cells. Finally we went through my toolbox before they dispersed across the lawn of the library there in Solon.
I really enjoy these kinds of educational outreach─teaching the communities I serve about pollinators and the crucial role they play in our world. The kids may have been a little chaotic, but they were sweet and respectful and I went home with a thank you card they’d made for me. It gives me hope that people might learn to respect and tolerate─if not appreciate─the creatures we share the Earth with, for every critter has a role, no matter how big or small, we all have a part to play in the interconnected web of life. This is what inspires me to keep doing what I do.