Weatherford Democrat

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September 19, 2012

Buzzin' around

Homeschool students learn through hands-on lesson

WEATHERFORD — As a child, Jason Smith found bees to be very intriguing creatures, and as the years went by, that curiosity spawned  a full-blown hobby.

Smith, who classifies himself as a part-time beekeeper, recently shared his knowledge and expertise with several groups of Parker County homeschoolers Tuesday afternoon, at his and his wife’s residence in Peaster.

“It’s more of a hobby,” he says. “I work as a paramedic and I just mess with bees on my days off.”

Over the years, Smith has crafted his skill, and Tuesday he and wife Christina provided a PowerPoint presentation and field experience to students.

“There are more than 20,000 types of bees, but the carpenter bees are the ones most commonly found in our area,” Christina Smith said.

She described the various parts of a bee, as well as its feeding habits. In a hive, there are three different kindss of bees, including the worker bees, which are all female, the drones, which are all male, and the queen bee, which can lay 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day during the summer.

“The worker bees are actually my favorite, because they’re the ones that control the hive and they’re all girls,” Smith said. “And while most people think the queen is in charge, it’s actually the worker bees, and they can kick the queen out [of the hive] and replace her if they don’t think she’s doing a good enough job.”

Jason Smith said one of the most important things about bees is that there isn’t a need to be afraid of them.

“If there’s a bee flying around you, chances are it’s just sniffing you out or its looking for food,” he said. “But either way, it’s a warning. If it wanted to sting you, she would’ve done it already.”

If approached by a bee, Smith said it’s best to slowly and calmly walk away, and try not to swipe at it.

“That’s when you’re going to get stung, but they read that as an attack and then they sting to defend themselves,” he said.

One of the most important roles for bees, Christina Smith said, is their pollination, which yields plants with fruits and seeds.

“There are more than 150 fruits and vegetables that come from pollinated plants,” she said. “And the nectar of 2 million flowers can equal one pound of honey.”

Bees are typically raised to produce wax and honey used in numerous products, including skin products and foods.

“A lot of people like honey, in part because it never goes bad. It can granulate, but you just heat it, and it goes back to its liquid form,” Jason Smith said. “A lot of people actually use honey to put on wounds, because it soaks up the moisture and kills bacteria.”

Smith, who has a few honeybee frames in his backyard, has been known to make house calls to eliminate beehives at residences.

“I’ll take the bees out and bring them home for us to extract honey and wax from,” he said.

While bees play a vital part in our ecosystem, the number of bees have declined, a phenomenon classified as a Colony Collapse Disorder.

“Scientists don’t know exactly what causes it but there are some things that contribute,” Christina Smith said.

One is the use of certain pesticides that contain nicotine, which can stay in the soil for years. Another is a parasite, similar to a flea or tick, which generates a virus in a bee that is transported back to the hive. Another source is poor nutrition, as bees also collect nectar from weeds such as dandelions.

“Bees are good,” Smith said. “Just remember, we would lose about a third of our food crops without them.”

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