Which insects extinction would cause human existence to cease in four years?  

According to beekeeper Nicole Gurley, it's the honey bee.

Gurley who is also the district librarian at LaPoynor Secondary, spoke on bees at the East Texas Arboretum Nature camp Thursday July 18 and started her lesson off with this question based on a quote from Albert Einstein.

With the decline of the bee population due to pesticides and improper bee removal, the lesson came at a vital time to educate on the importance of bees.

“I want to educate children to understand the importance of honey bees for our food supply and to protect them.” Gurley said.

The family not only keeps bees, they give presentations at schools, day cares ,camps, and offer safe bee removal as an alternative to using toxic pesticides that are destroying the bee population. Jeff, her husband of 16 years and a science teacher at Martins Mill, and her daughters Madison, 14 and Elizabeth, 8, also help with the family hives and removals.

Madison actually started the family on their beekeeping journey after winning a scholarship from the East Texas Beekeeping Association.  The group meets in Whitehouse the first Thursday of every month. There is a local group led by Jeanelle Cole of Milk & Honey Meadows, who triggered their interest in beekeeping and encouraged them to look into the ETBA.

Gurley educated on the anatomy of the bee, how they grow into adult bees and how sensitive their sense of smell is. Bees fly about 50,000 miles in their lifetime and it takes 2,000,000 flowers to make 1 lb of honey. She encouraged planting flowers, creating a bee bath (bee hydration station) if you are unable to learn the art of beekeeping and have hives of your own.  There are many ways to help the bees.

Elizabeth Gurley dressed in her bee suit, which is another tool in the beekeeper arsenal to keep them calm. The suit is white which keeps the bees calmer then darker colors.  Bee predators are typically dark.  She explained tools such as the hive tool, clamp, brush, smoker and pine needles. The smoker serves two purposes, the smoke covers up the pheremones released, and since the bees think their house is on fire, they try to gobble up as much honey as possible, keeping them busy long enough to be taken care of or harvest honey.

The bee box has three levels, the top is for honey collection, the middle is for their own use, and the bottom is where they come and go.  The bees cap off their honey supply when it gets to a perfect 17% water content. The first year is typically not very good for honey collection as the bees establish the hive.

The presentation finished off with the children being able to view an active beehive (contained with plexiglass) and watch a demonstration of the smoker.

Children finished off the day at Nature Camp with rock painting, crafts, snacks,  a nature trail walk to the beehive, and a lesson on butterflies by Becky Patterson. For more information on the East Texas Arboretums camps and numerous other programs, please contact them at 903-675-5630.

Visit the Gurley family website at www.theanswerisbee.org, or contact her by email at theanswerisbee@gmail.com.

East Texas Beekeeping Association has a Facebook page for more information on their meetings.

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