A 4-H member collects wax from one of the hives. (Submitted photo)

4-H kids take up beekeeping project

Members getting ready to show off their apicultural skills

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees.

OK, well no birds, but the Yellowhead West District 4-H is happy to say that this year we are offering, for the first time, the Honey Bee Project to any interested 4-H members, new and existing. There are three units available to these members, Unit 1: Understanding the Honey Bee, Unit 2: Working with Honey Bees, and Unit 3: Advanced Beekeeping.

There are four clubs in our local area, the Yellowhead West District, Topley 4-H, Mid-Valley 4-H, Quick 4-H and Evelyn 4-H. This year there are seven members doing Unit 2 of the Honey Bee Project from two separate clubs.

These seven 4-H members meet throughout the year and have been learning about the value of the honey bee, how they live and work and the benefits of pollination. These members have all purchased hives, and NUC packages. NUC’s are a starter package of bees consisting of a queen, some worker bees, some drone bees, four frames of pollen, honey and brood to get the hive up and running for the year.

The members have been busy preparing the location for their hives. They have had to consider where the hive is best located, where the hive gets the best sun exposure, the least wind exposure, where there is a water source and how to protect from bears and other potential intruders. Some have also had to prepare for other insect infestation such as ants and hornets. Moat building was a topic of discussion to keep the ants away. As well, some of the members who live in more wooded areas have installed electric fencing to keep predators away from the hives.

This startup has been a very interesting learning experience for all the kids. Most of the 4-H members have been researching and investigating how best to be a successful beekeeper.

The NUC packages arrived at the beginning of June and the 4-H members are now underway. We have had our first field day and went into a number of hives. The members were looking for the queen brood to prove she is laying as well as honey and pollen to see if the bees were doing their job. The kids were also looking for the drawn comb, which is what the bees do to the foundation to make room for the queen to lay her eggs, and is a place to store honey and pollen. This needs to be done before the bees can fly and pollinate our flowers, trees and vegetables.

Before the Bulkley Valley Exhibition, these 4-H members will take the time to extract honey from their hives. They will work hard to prepare their honey for showing and competing. This is all a part of their Unit 2 project and must be completed in order to achieve for the 4-H year. There will be a 4-H Honey Bee display at the Fall Fair, near the rest of the 4-H animals. Please be sure you stop by, see the projects these 4-H members have, taste some local natural honey and see what interesting facts these members have learned and are sharing.

These 4-H members are also learning about how bees pollinate the flowers, our gardens and the trees. They are all learning how the honey bee impacts our environment, what is harming our bees and what we can do to support the survival of the honey bee. All the 4-H members have planted fruit trees, or shrubs and flowers to support their hives.

After the Fall Fair they will also be learning how to winterize their hives for the best chance of survival through the winter months. As a winter project the 4-H Members will learn about beeswax, how to collect it and what they can use it for. There will be candle-making and lip balm-making sessions.

The Smithers Beekeeping Club has been very supportive of this new 4-H project. The members of the Smithers Beekeeping Club have offered to help and mentor, they have come to 4-H meetings and spoke with the kids, and they have helped with the 4-H Spring Show and Judging Rally, where all the 4-H members attend and complete some of the requirements for achievement for the 4-H year.

With the decline in the bee population in general it is a very valuable project and the 4-H members are learning how to preserve our natural food supply. Without honey bees our own food supply would diminish. For more information on 4-H or how to become involved please contact Stacy Dupuis.

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