Students Learn Beekeeping by Doing Beekeeping at Camp in Montgomery

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By Heather VacLav

A new camp buzzes at Montgomery's magnet elementary school, Bear Exploration Center. Elementary and middle school students are learning about the fascinating world of honey bees. 

The two-day Beekeeping Camp is hosted by the Central Alabama Beekeepers Association (CABA) and Alabama 4-H.

More than one dozen students are learning why bees are vital to our every day lives.

"We're losing many of our pollinators [to a global epidemic], honey bees being one of them," said Dr. Jason Borders, a CABA member who coordinated the camp. "So it's important, I think that kids understand how detrimental it would be to lose honey bees, especially for the economy." 

In fact, $15 billion of the U.S. economy is directly related to honey bees. While students can't wrap their minds around the money, they can learn how to sustain it in the future.

Day one of Beekeeping Camp, students learned the chemistry of bees, making pheromones to learn how bees communicate inside their hive, plus studying bee biology.

"We'll also have classes in art with beeswax, making lip balm," said Borders. "Then we'll have the more practical classes, how to build a hive and take the honey out of a hive."

The key to this summer camp is the Bear Exploration Center outdoor classroom. Students are getting up close, hands on experience in the outdoor classroom, suiting up and looking inside the hives. 

With beehive smokers in hand, groups of students opened up each hive, with hundreds of bees flying out at their masked faces.

"I was a little scared, because I've always been a little scared of bees," said Ryan Semler when he saw all the bees.

Normally, when a swarm of bees flies out, these students would be scared, but many said the suits put them at ease to enjoy the hive and watch the queen and her honey bees.

Dr. Borders passed his love of honey bees to his daughter, Leah Grace. She said she watches the honey bees in her backyard, but it was fun to take part in the camp. "[We learned about] the Waggle dance that they use, to communicate with each other, and humans have found how to interact with them to find their food source," Leah Grace Borders said.

"When they see a bee outside, they are going to understand that this bee is doing this, to this flower and that means something to me in my life," Dr. Borders said, hoping the kids would take more out of it than just a simple summer camp.

The last day of Beekeeping Camp is Saturday, when students will collect honey from the hives.
 

 

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