By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
The children bend toward the live bees on the table, shifting and inching close bit by bit to see them inside the glass frame of the observation hive. At the Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Children’s Water Festival fourth grade students learned more about the valuable resource of water, but also got a glimpse of an incredible little insect that, along with water, helps grow their food.
“Bees help in the production of one third of the food we eat,” said Bob Reneau, president of the Paseo del Norte Beekeepers Association (PDNBA), who is smartly dressed in his finest - a gleaming white beekeeper suit. The bees in observation frame, borrowed from a local hive that morning, allow the students to see how bees go about their daily lives in the hive.
Jill Kindrick, another member of the PDNBA, shows enlarged colored photos of the queen that the kids can search for close up. “She can make over 1,500 workers each day during the summer,” she said. “She lives two years, but her workers only live about five weeks.” Two students gasp and one replies, “Well that’s not fair.”
Their short life span has been cut even further by bee colony collapse - a disorder that has reduced the number of bees in the U.S. by more than 40%. The queen and worker bees leave the hive and simply don’t come back. The colony is left with too few bees to survive. Spreading awareness of this disorder - stemming from issues like the harmful use of pesticides, disease, parasites, and loss of habitat - is one of the main missions of PDNBA. Events like the Children’s Water Festival allow them to chat to the next generation.
Reneau also explained to the student that their organization’s website (www.pdnbeekeepers.org) is a place to report a swarm, or a hive that their parents might want removed. “We once took one out from under a dog house,” he said. “If you fill out the form on the website, we’ll come and move the bees for you to a place where they can live better than under a dog house.”
“We want the students to know that bees are in trouble,” explained Reneau. “We also want them to keep in mind that bees are important to all of us – they are powerful pollinators that we rely on for our food supply. And, if we can let them know that insecticides and pesticides are harmful to them, it’s knowledge they can pass onto their parents.”
In fact, a parent chaperone jumped in with a question: “What exactly is honey?” Kindrick replied, “It’s food for the workers.” “Oh, I thought it was poop,” said the slightly chagrined parent and the kids laugh, “Good to know!”
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Bob Reneau, president of the PDNBA, brought an observation hive filled with live bees and spoke to fourth grade students at the LCU Children’s Water Festival explaining that bees are in trouble. Bee populations in the U.S. are down more than 40% since 1947.