Beekeeper creates a buzz at Derry presentation

Union Leader Correspondent
March 17. 2013 8:10PM
Beekeeper Wendy Booth, left, gets a little help finding the queen bee from Jen Michaud, 12, and Colby Collins, 13, during a presentation at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Derry last week. During a one-hour program, kids learned the basics of beekeeping and why the insects play an important role in agriculture. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

DERRY - Something was definitely abuzz at the Derry Boys & Girls Club when Nottingham beekeeper Wendy Booth stopped by with around 3,000 or so of her closest six-legged friends.

Booth shared her knowledge of the bees last week with 60 children attending the after school program at the Hampstead Road club Tuesday afternoon.

As part of a program sponsored by the Derry Garden Club, the children, ranging in age from 6 through 13, learned quite a bit about the honey-making insects over the course of the one-hour program.

Many of the kids are already familiar with the role the insects play in local agriculture, according to Derry Garden Club member Blanche Garone, who teaches gardening at the club.

In fact, this past summer Garone and many of her young helpers participated in a local honeybee survey, where she and the children helped track Derry's bee population.

According to Garone, Derry has one of the highest concentrations of honeybees in the state, making it all the more important for the town's younger citizens to respect, rather than fear, the often misunderstood insects.

Booth, the current president of the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association, said she regularly visits schools and youth organizations, where many children initially express fear of bees.

"I encourage them to take a closer look," Booth said as she looked over a wooden cabinet filled with several thousand bees with the help of club members Colby Collins, 13, and Jen Michaud, 12.

The cabinet's usual home is right in Booth's bedroom - a fact many of the children were surprised to hear.

"Ewwwwww!" one little girl exclaimed, though Booth reassured her that the bees couldn't sting her since the glass-sided cabinet "keeps the bees safe from you while you're safe from them."

"Look for the queen," she told Colby and Jen as they traced their fingers over the glass window encasing a honeycomb. "It's kind of like looking for Where's Waldo, isn't it?"

Later, the children learned about the different roles each bee plays in colony life.

Unlike wasps, hornets or yellow jackets, honeybees don't sting unless they're provoked, Booth assured the kids.

"A honeybee can only sting once, then they'll die," she said. "On the other hand, a wasp can sting you again and again."

Booth herself said she gets stung around 20 times each year, which isn't very often considering the fact she has 25 bee colonies at her home, with each one containing roughly 60,000 bees.

"My bees aren't interested in hunting you down at a barbecue," she told the children. "Though a yellow jacket might want to hunt down a bite of your hot dog."

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