All Abuzz About Bees

First-Grade Project: Math & Science

The room buzzed with excitement as the guest speaker laid out the tools of her trade – long, thick gloves, a smoker, and a netted helmet. “Do you think of bees when you hear the word apiary?” she asked the excited students. “No, I think of apes!” shouted one first grader.

Stacy, a local beekeeper, brought her knowledge and her bees to First-Grade Project students today to discuss patterns in nature.

Preston pressed his face close to a glass box holding hundreds of live bees. He was convinced the bees were scared of him. “The bees keep looking at me because of my mask,” he said. He adjusted the red Spiderman mask over his nose. “They know spiders eat bees.”

Students learned about the different roles of bees in the colony. “The boy bees are called drones,” explained Kingston.

“The ones called drone bees get pollen from flowers,” said Matthew.

Jude added: “They also warn the queen.”

“And, they protect the hive,” Sean chimed in.

“Did you know that drones don’t sting?” Preston asked his classmate.

“Because drones are robots and robots don’t sting,” Tejas cleverly replied.

Watching live bees through the glass and wood viewing box was a highlight of the presentation. “Look! They’re climbing on the wall!” shouted Max in excitement. The “wall” was a bee hive frame that Stacy had pulled from a hive box just that morning, bees and all. “They’re working on a honeycomb,” Max told me. “It’s made of nectar.”

Stacy told the class that nectar is like glue and it’s used to seal up the hive. This is especially important in a cold climate like Minnesota’s. Lillie pointed to the dull white-colored substance plugging the honey comb at the top of the frame. “This is filled with honey!” Lillie said excitedly. The Beekeeper told the children that honeycomb is always hexagonal shaped and each chamber is tilted slightly so the honey doesn’t leak out.

Haven leaned over a glossy photograph of hundreds of bees in a hive. “I’m looking for the queen,” she said. She pointed to a particular bee in the middle of the photo. “I think it’s this one because of the end of it, on her abdomen. It’s shiny and it doesn’t have stripes. Also, it’s not fuzzy.”

Damani pointed to another bee in the picture. “We think it was this one because it’s bigger,” he said.

Kingston explained, “The queen bee is bigger than all the other ones.” He said he liked the bees, but “I was kinda afraid of them, because once I almost got stung.”

Stacy asked students to guess how many eggs a queen can lay in a day. “A hundred!” guessed Jude. “150,000!” answered Lauren. “You’re getting closer,” Stephanie encouraged. Depending on conditions, queens can lay between 1,500 and 3,000 eggs per day.

Preston leaned in close to the bee window and shouted over the top of the contraption to the students viewing on the other side. “Are there any bees over there, sticking their butts out?”

At the end of the presentation, students were gifted small jars of Stacy’s Homestead Honey. Sean and Jude were excited because they didn’t think they had ever tasted honey. “I don’t like sweet things, but I’ll try it,” Sean said.

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