This week’s nature walk featured a special treat: A visit and demonstration from local beekeeper Maraiah Russell, whose grandfather kept bees and passed down his hobby. Russell teaches introduction to beekeeping classes for the Northeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association, and she kept the children enthralled for an hour. It probably helped that she brought a huge pile of beekeeping equipment, which the children loved inspecting in great detail.

Redeemer Classical students are learning about pollinators right now in their botany class, so they were able to spend their time with Russell asking more detailed questions instead of getting simply an introduction to bees. They learned about several different varieties of bees and about ways beekeepers specifically care for their hives based on bees’ biology and habitat.

Since it was a beautiful (albeit windy) spring day, we held class outside. This summer we will build an outdoor classroom to provide better seating for events like this! If you want to lend a hand, sign up for our email list to learn about build days. The more people help, the more we can do!

Russell answers one of many, many questions the children had.

Next to Russell on a giant spool that this summer will become playground equipment, you can see some of her beekeeping supplies, particularly the hats that keep beekeepers’ heads protected from stings. Russell explained that bees do not sting unless they feel threatened, so if you are careful enough the bees will not see you as a threat and that allows beekeepers to work with them confidently.

Here the children touch a dead bee. One or two children had a great fear of bees due to some nasty previous stings, and the opportunity to touch this bee reduced their fears. It gave a few scares, though, when the wind picked up and moved its wings!

Here Russell demonstrates her beekeepers’ hat and how she tucks her clothes in to keep bees from climbing in, since they like to hide in dark, warm places, which can lead to unnecessary stings. She brought extra hats for the children to try on.

Here Russell demonstrates a honey extractor, which uses a crank to create centrifugal force that pulls the honey out of her bee frames from her hives, after she has used a hot knife to melt off the little wax caps bees put on top of each honeycomb cell. She noted that honey lasts permanently, as far as we know — edible honey has been found inside Egyptian tombs, which are several thousand years old!

Thank you, Maraiah, for sharing bees with us! To learn more about Russell and beekeeping in our area, check out this Journal Gazette article, which features a picture of Russell’s grandfather and his bee equipment.

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