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Bee-ing at the Farm: 4-H Club’s Adventures with Bees -- by Charlotte H. (volunteer, 4-H club at Gill Tract)

Look around the farm lately and you may have noticed signs of bees - and signs of the Gill Tract 4-H Club! Next time you’re at the farm, see if you can spot the 4-H Club’s Native Bee Hotels and the Bee Specimen Collection, signs of the kids’ hard work (and play) learning about bees.

Native Bee Hotels

Perhaps you have already noticed the four new Native Bee Hotels in the field. The kids in 4-H club built these “hotels” from logs to provide welcome nesting spaces for native bees. Native bees pollinate flowers at a much faster rate than European honey bees and have uniquely evolved to pollinate certain native plants. But, invasive honey bees often intimidate native bees. Case in point: Here on the farm, the 4-H Club observed far more honey bees than native bees. With this knowledge, 4-H kids built bee hotels to make the farm a more inviting place for native bees. If you look closely, you can see that the stumps are covered in holes that the kids drilled and sanded. Holes of varying sizes allow different size bees to build their nests inside the logs. To learn about the process 4-H used, check out this youtube video.

The Bee Hotels can be found in the Pollinator Garden, the Children’s Garden and in row 8.

Bee Specimens: What Bees Live on the Farm?

This year the 4-H kids became experts at catching bees - sometimes with their bare hands! As mentioned above, most of the bees found on the farm were European honey bees, but many native bumble bees and a small number of other native bees were found as well. Most of these bees were released to freedom, but the club froze a few of the bees to learn how to pin them, just like entomologists do. Catching and pinning bees led the kids to ask questions: Which plants do different bees prefer? What do different bees look like? How can we tell when a captured bee is struggling and needs to be released? Why do scientists kill bees in order to learn about them? Many questions remain, but in the process the 4-H club has given us all a window into the life of bees on the farm. Thank you, 4-H club!

Take a peek inside the club’s Bee Specimen Collection in the AgOps Building to see the bees and read about the kids’ experience in their own words.


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