Mrs. Witten’s third grade class at Heritage Elementary School in Highland Village was buzzing with excitement as they searched for the queen bee in the display that sat in front of them.
Jim and Glynna Condit, of Lindsay, Oklahoma, recently made a special trip to the school just to teach their great granddaughter’s class about bee keeping.
“Our granddaughter, Krista Reimer, called us and told us Caitlin’s class was studying about bees and asked if we could come down and teach all the third graders about bee keeping, “said Condit.
“How can you refuse when you get a chance to spend time with your great grandchildren, and talk about a hobby you love,” Condit said as he smiled.
More than 130 third-graders from Heritage Elementary sat quietly in a peaceful garden area located on the school grounds as Condit explained how honey bees work to gather nectar, feed the queen bee and make honey.
Even though Condit will be 80-years-old in August, he adeptly weaved a mixture of science, health and even math and history into the unique presentation.
Standing in front of a glass “bee box” with more than 2,000 bees inside, Condit told the students how many bees would normally be on one side of a frame, and then ask them how many would be on two sides and how many in a box of bees.
Students were very interested in how bees sting and Condit used the opportunity to explain that, “only worker bees and the queen can sting, and when worker bees sting, they die.” He also taught the students how to treat bee stings, emphasizing the need to “scrape the stinger out of the skin,” instead of squeezing it, which forces more venom into the stinger injection site and increasing the pain.
“Where do bees come from?” one student asked. Condit explained how the queen bee will lay eggs that develop into larvae and eventually into house bees. “The house bees keep the colony clean and they take care of the queen. When they get older, they become the worker bees who fly out to bring back nectar,” he explained to the students. “All the worker bees are female bees – I guess that tells us who works the hardest!” Condit joked.
Condit touched briefly upon how the commercial bee business was introduced into the United States, where the most bees are produced, and numerous other facts that kept the students enthralled for an hour.
Students were especially interested in the queen bee. Condit explained how they “mark” the queen bee so they can easily identify her, and the how they use different colors to mark the queen to track how old each queen is.
“Queens can live 4–5 years,” he explained. “The queen is the key to productivity and survival in the hive. If she gets a disease or is injured, it impacts the entire hive.”
The bee box Condit had on display allowed the students to safely view the bees as they crawled around on a piece of honey comb, with the queen bee visibly marked with a blue dot on her head. He also donned a special “bee suit” that is used when working with the bees to demonstrate to students how to safely handle the bees.
Condit, who has been a beekeeper for 10 years and taught numerous classes on beekeeping, closed his teachings with two important lessons for the students.
“The more you learn about bees, the more you realize how well they take care of each other,” he said. “The worker bees are constantly dying off from hard work, disease, and other things, but they dedicate their life to protect the hive and the future of the colony,” he explained.
“The queen is always protected, and all the bees in the hive work together to ensure the hive survives and has plenty of food. Sometimes humans could learn from watching bees.”
As a member of several bee keeping organizations, Condit did not miss an opportunity to encourage the students to get involved in beekeeping. “Bees are very important to humans and to our food supply,” he said. “Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are raising bees each year. If you are interested, I encourage you to ask your parents about beekeeping, it can be a lot of fun.”
Condit fielded questions from the students for almost a half-hour and everyone enjoyed seeing the bee box and watching the bees at work inside.
Caitlin Reimer, Condit’s great granddaughter was especially proud, “Poppa did a great job and the bees were really fun to watch,” she said excitedly, pointing to the queen bee!
Condit and his wife, Glynna, live in Erin Springs, Oklahoma where he has raised bees for more than ten years. They are often contacted by homeowners and others to remove swarms of bees, and they also enjoy teaching beekeeping classes.
Special to The Cross Timbers Gazette