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Local beekeeper shares his knowledge with first graders

Phil Campbell first graders recently read a honeybee story as part of their curriculum, and their teachers decided to help bring the story to life.

Teacher Whitney Hutcheson’s uncle Billy Pierce, a beekeeper, and his wife DewAnna spent some time with the children Friday, sharing with them facts about bee culture, bee raising and honey collection.

“You’d be surprised at the kids today who don’t really know anything about what a honeybee does,” Pierce said.

Pierce told the students about his experience collecting honey with his grandfather as a youngster and how it built the foundation that eventually inspired him to work with honeybees himself – although as a child he wasn’t very excited about the idea.

“We would go in the woods in the summertime and take a saw, and he would find a bee tree, and we would saw that tree down and split it open, and he would get the honey,” Pierce said. “Now, what did I do? I ran up on the hill and ran around and around because I was afraid of the bees. He told me, ‘If you’ll come stand by me, and stay right here, they won’t bother you.’ But I just couldn’t stay there.”

But he eventually came around, and after retirement, he hearkened back to the experience and decided go into beekeeping.

He also suited up for the classes, highlighting the importance of his protective suit – special coat, boots, gloves and netted hat. “That way I can handle the bees, look in the box and not get stung,” he explained. He told the story of one day when he forgot to finish zipping his netted hat to his jacket.

“I got to robbing bees and getting honey, and I had about four under (my netting),” Pierce said. “I had to zip it up because there were hundreds around me. I couldn’t take it off, so I got stung four times.”

Pierce explained the honeybees’ family structure to the children – the jobs undertaken by the drones, the worker bees and the queen bee. Particularly, he drove home the importance of honeybees for local agriculture and food supply. “If there are no bees, there will be no fruit,” Pierce said. “Thirty percent of our food comes from bees and what they do – pollinate. Honeybees pollinate about 80 percent … In the spring, that’s when the honeybees are really important – to your garden, to our corn supply, peaches, apples, watermelons, squash, cantaloupe. A lot of people make a living hauling bees to certain orchards or fields so bees can pollinate the crops.”

“He’s relating it to his life experience and what he does,” said teacher Cindy Young. “It helps them make real life connections.”

“It makes it personal to them,” added teacher Karen Farris.

To wrap up, the Pierces gave each child a small taste of fresh fall honey made by their bees.