Aspiring beekeepers strive to inspire others

   Ramona Valley 4-H Club members introduce their new beekeeping group. 


Last fall the group received a grant from the Dean Memorial Fund that helped jump-start the project. Group members, ages 9-16, are thrilled to be the forerunners in San Diego County, as they are the only 4-H beekeeping group in the county, said their leader, Laurie Stevens. 


   “Hopefully we will inspire the development of future groups,” said Stevens.  “Much credit is given to Beckey Smith as she’s been very instrumental in the rapid success of our group, volunteering her knowledge, experience, time and resources.”


The 4-H’ers invite everyone to upcoming community events where they will have their local raw honey: Ramona Grange Hall on July 24 at 10 a.m., and Ramona Junior Fair from July 31 through Aug. 8. 


   “Meanwhile we hope you enjoy the following article written by one of our students, Olivia Springfield, and photographed by Tim Siegert,” said Stevens.

By Olivia Springfield

   Have aliens hit Ramona? That’s what it seems as Ramona Valley 4-H Bee Group suits up and heads to the hills to work on Ramona’s first 4-H bee project.

   This unique addition to Ramona Valley 4-H is far from the usual pigs and steers one may find at the fair. When Ramona 4-H Bee Group leader Laurie Stevens heard about the decreasing bee population around the globe, the 4-H’ers decided it was time to take action.

   Most Americans would think of bees disappearing as a good thing, thinking of bees as those annoying pool pests that act as danger to swimmers. But without bees, what would happen to the ecosystem? 

   Bees mean a great deal to produce. Without bees we wouldn’t have all the fresh fruits and veggies we have in our supermarkets. Produce would lose a lot of the essential vitamins in the grown food we eat.

   This is such a serious problem that Albert Einstein, said to be one of the smartest men to ever live, was quoted to say, “If bees ever disappear, men will follow soon after.”

   What has caused the bees sudden decline? No one knows. Experts are at a loss to explain the fall in honey bee populations in America. New findings are linking it to cell phone usage and the increasing number of cell towers.

   It is feared that it could be a number of things: a new disease, effects of pollution or the increased use of pesticides. These may be the reason for “colony collapse disorder.”

   Since 1971, approximately one-half of the U.S. honey bee colonies have vanished, experts report.

   Ramona Valley 4-H has decided to change that and help the bee population. In September of 2009, the Ramona bee group began—nothing fancy, no expert teacher, no professional hive. The 4-H’ers began with one leader and a book, “Beekeeping for Dummies,” and YouTube videos. They agreed they needed all the help they could get.

   The small group consisted of Wyatt Stevens, Hannah and Leah Gill, Morgan and Helen Buchanan, Zane Welsh, and Olivia and Alicia Springfield. They began by just discussing bees, types of bees, hive order, and how to make a hive.

   Early in 2010, bee group members began building their first hive, a challenging process. With no more than a kit and, thankfully, help from a Ramona beekeeper, Beckey Smith, the group of “aspiring apiarists” began to put their bee boxes together. Each box had to be pieced together correctly, otherwise there could be problems with the hive. After the hive was built, it was on to painting. From there things progressed from building a hive to getting the bees and purchasing a queen.

“I think that installing the bees was the most informational,” Wyatt, 12, said of what he enjoyed the most so far. “When we installed the bees, I got to pound them out of the mailing box. Building the hive was hard but at the same time fun because I knew it would go to a good purpose. It was a little scary when bees are flying everywhere even though you are in a bee suit.”

   Zane, 11, said, “My favorite part was when we put the bees in the hive. It was very interesting how they didn’t attack us ‘cause they didn’t have anything to protect.”

   Leah, 9, found that her favorite part was “When we saw the queen bee. She was huge and was inside a little cage. There was a little candy at the end of the cage. The queen would eat away at the candy and go into the hive to join the busy buzzy bee colony.” 

   Others found that waiting for the new generation of bees was exciting, but all have found that being in the bee group is fun.

   “I Just like the bees,” said Alicia, 13.

   Bees are responsible for our produce, the flowers, and most of the flora and the fauna around us. Most of the ecosystems of  the world depend on plants, which are pollinated by bees. Bees play a huge part in the world and without them the ecosystem could fail.

   How can the average person help bees? Not everyone’s going to become a beekeeper.

   There are a number of things that people can do to help. One is the easiest: Don’t swat bees! The fewer bees killed, the more bees there are. Bees are rather docile creatures and if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you.

   Bees have a precise mechanism to calculate the distance they have to fly. If a bee for some reason miscalculates he doesn’t have enough energy to fly the distance and then back to the hive, he may end up on the sidewalk. If people just stick a flower near the bee, they could refuel and then fly away.

   At the Ramona Junior Fair this year, everyone’s invited to check out the bee group in the Home Economics Building, as well as the honey their two hives have produced so far. The 4-H’ers will have pictures and some of their equipment on display, and they have plenty of information about bees to share.

   Beekeeping has taught each individual member something extraordinary—about responsibility and themselves and the amazing creatures that walk the earth.


 Olivia Springfield, 14,  says she and the other Ramona bee group members have become “inspiring apiarists.“

   
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