Preschoolers learn about bees

Maricela DeOllos pours some honey for Alivia Morris. The honey was made by bees owned by Ernest Griffiths, who dropped by the Scottsbluff Family YMCA Preschool to teach students about the importance of bees.

SCOTTSBLUFF — Preschoolers were all abuzz on Wednesday as they learned about events in the springtime and how beneficial bees are to the environment.

Ernest Griffiths dropped by the Scottsbluff Family YMCA Preschool to share his passion — bees and making honey.

Griffiths offered a few tips for not getting stung. One of the most important things you can do is not make any loud noises or wave your arms around.

“Bees do not like loud noises,” he said. “If there’s a bee, if at all possible don’t move too fast and don’t slap it.”

Griffiths said if you do these things, you will likely be stung. Throughout the day as he checks his hives, bees occasionally land on Griffiths. He ignores them.

“When they land on me, I just don’t do anything,” he said. “I have more bees land on me, asking, ‘What are you doing here?’ than do sting me.”

Griffiths’ bees spend the winter in California because it is warmer and they are put to work pollinating almonds. Of the 1.5-2 million acres of almonds in California, it takes 3.5-4 million hives to pollinate them all. Griffiths enjoys sending his bees out west each year.

“They go out and work all winter and make more bees,” he said. “I send out 5 million bees and get back 10 million, so that’s good for me.”

Only one queen lives in each hive. The rest of the bees bring food to her and take care of her. Over the course of the summer, the queen lays 50,000-70,000 eggs. Eggs take about two weeks to hatch and have a 99 percent hatch rate. Baby bees must eat their way out of the comb. As each bee has a job, their first job is to feed the others ready to hatch, then clean up the hive and guide the hive. When they are about three weeks old, they will be the ones collecting nectar and pollen from flowers.

There are three types of bees — queen, worker and drone. The drone spends the spring and summer congregating with about 10,000 other drones who are waiting for a queen.

“When the queen shows up and mates with the drone, it dies and falls to the ground,” Grifiths said.

In the fall, the drones suffer even more.

“The bees say, ‘You’re no good. You’re only going to be eating,’” he said. “They want to save the honey for themselves and the queen, so they get kicked out.”

Bees don’t die like most people think. They wear their wings out.

“If they wear them out two miles from the hive, they won’t make it back,” he said. “They will run out of food long before they could walk that far.”

When the queen gets old and loses her odor, the bees make a new queen. The bees then kick out the old queen.

“The old queen is just like people, she had friends that go with her and create a storm,” Griffiths said. “A swarm of bees is friendlier than a regular hive.”

When Griffiths finds a swarm, he gathers it and puts it in an existing hive.

“I know in a few weeks, that old queen will be kicked out again,” he said. “When she’s kicked out again, I still have a new hive of bees.”

inorth@starherald.com