Young Beaconsfield School beekeepers in the making –

A sweet new venture at a South Canterbury rural schools, is creating a buzz as pupils learn about the life of bees.
Beaconsfield School year 7 and 8 pupils are learning first hand about the fascinating life of the busy insects that create honey, after two hives, with about 60,000 bees were placed at the school.
Their introduction has brought about a live nature lesson for pupils as they discover the life cycle of the bees, their different roles in the hive, and the process of making honey.
The Little Honey Co owners Reagan and Sarah Martin are responsible for putting the hives at the school, and give the children 90-minute practical lessons on their upkeep every three weeks.
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“The kids will produce their own honey comb and honey, harvest the boxes, market it, label it and sell it as a school fundraiser,” Sarah Martin said.
She said they were also teaching pupils not to fear the bees and how important the bees are to the eco-system.
The children wear protective bee suits when near the hives.
“Some were more scared of the thought of getting stung than actually being stung. The bees die once they sting, so they will only sting if they think they are in danger,” she said.
She said, if stung, flicking the stinger out as quickly as possible was the best method.
No longer scared of bees, pupil Lucy Jarvis, 12, said she was enjoying the lessons and was surprised the queen bee laid up to 1500 eggs a day, which was more than their own body weight, and the drones did not do anything.
“They’re lazy. At first they start flying but not that far,” she said.
Once drones have mated with the queen they die.
Now her family is considering getting beehives for their lifestyle block since she has been learning about them, she said.
The bees fly up to five kilometres and at this time of year collect pollen from daisies, clover, dandelions and canola, Sarah Martin said.
Quinlan Bielski, 12, was grateful to get a break from maths and reading.
“I used to move away from bees, but now I feel quite confident. It’s good to learn how honey is made and how it gets to the supermarket,” Bielski said.
Part of the process of beekeeping was lighting smokers using cardboard and hessian sacking to make it burn slowly which taught the children about safety around fire, Reagan Martin said.
“Some of the kids were reluctant to light them, but others encouraged them. It’s good for their confidence.”
Contrary to popular belief, smoke made the bees more alert and made them focus on eating their honey instead of feeling under threat from humans as they assumed there was a fire, Sarah Martin said.
Each hive would produce about 20 kilograms to 30kg of honey with much of it honey comb, with the wax, and the rest extracted without the wax, Reagan Martin said.
At the country school pupils also tend hens, a few sheep, calves and a vegetable garden.
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