SPEARFISH — Rainbow Preschool and Kid Konnection were recently abuzz with bee factoids when local beekeepers Carl and Kiah Crowley, owners of Sunrise Hives in St. Onge, visited to share information about beekeeping with students.

On Tuesday, the Crowleys presented to Mrs. Rowe’s class at Rainbow Preschool, where their 3-year-old son Rowan attends school.

They started by explaining that bees not only make honey, but the honeycomb they produce is also great for wax-based products like candles, makeup, and Chapstick. But they said the honeybee’s most important job is to pollinate, which fertilizes plants and allows them to grow.

“Do you have dandelions in your yard?” Kiah asked the students. “They are the honeybee’s favorite. A lot of people think dandelions are weeds so they spray them with pesticides, but bees love them. And you can plant all kinds of flowers that the bees will pollinate.”

To create honey, the bees gather nectar from flowers and plants and take it back to the nest or beehive where it’s used to feed adult bees. It’s passed from foraging worker bees to worker house bees that deposit it into honeycomb cells.

After a process of fanning and evaporation, the nectar turns into honey and is capped over with wax by the bees. When the nectar has turned into honey, it will provide a winter food source for the bees to eat when they are unable to forage outside for food.

While suiting up in a blue, cotton bee suit complete with a netted veil, Kiah explained that when beekeepers go to extract the honey from a hive, they have to wear these suits to avoid being stung.

“We put on our suits and we also have a smoker going so the bees don’t sting,” Carl said, explaining that smoke makes the bees docile. “And if you leave bees alone, they’ll leave you alone.”

Carl also shared how to distinguish between bees and wasps.

“If you’re having a picnic at the park and a ‘bee’ lands on your hot dog, you know it’s not a bee because a bee doesn’t like hotdogs, it likes flowers,” Carl said. “It’s actually a wasp, because wasps are just after meat.”

Carl added that wasps’ nests will look gray and papery, whereas a bee hive will contain wax.

“You still want to leave them (the bees) alone,” he said.

Kiah and Carl detailed the structure of a honeybee colony. A typical colony has one queen, about 50,000 worker bees, 300 drones (male bees), 9,000 larvae to be fed, 20,000 older larvae and pupae in sealed cells that must be kept warm, and 6,000 eggs from which new larvae will hatch.

The Crowleys then showed the class the different types of honeybees, the smoker, the frames that sit in the hive, honeycomb, and wax. In addition, they taught students a song called “I’m a Little Honeybee.”

Kiah said that despite the honeybee’s huge colonies, they’re currently facing many challenges including predatory threats, viruses, diseases, and human impact. She said people can assist with the preservation of honeybees by growing a garden, buying organic, locally-grown foods, avoiding pesticides, and promoting awareness about bees. She emphasized that people should let their dandelions grow because they’re one of the first spring flowers that bees flock to when there aren’t many other flowers available.

Sunrise Hives is located in St. Onge and offers raw honey, honeycomb, candles, and pollination. For more information, call 641-3844, e-mail sunrisehives@live.com, or visit the Sunrise Hives Facebook page.

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