Beehive thrives at Ambler Farm

Ambler Farm’s resident sheep and goats now have new neighbors with the addition of Russian honeybees for the farm’s interactive-learning Summer Program.
Program Manager Kevin Meehan said the bees are off to a great start.
“They’re very productive,” he said. “Lots of brood,” brood meaning developing bees.
He wanted honeybees at Ambler Farm because of his belief in the importance of teaching young children about the connection between land stewardship and animal well-being.
“You know, the reason why we teach this stuff is because it’s important to know that what we do to the land affects the insects and animals that share it with us.”
“This is an organic farm,” Meehan continued,” but not just because that’s better for people; it’s better for the environment as a whole.”
“Common chemicals used to oust ticks can be bad for bees,” he added, pointing out that the Centers for Disease Control is looking into what he termed the “bee plight.” (Commercial and backyard beekeepers have suffered colony collapse for years, with no specific cause identified.)
Meehan was also excited about the potential that keeping honeybees at Ambler Farm will have in mitigating the irrational fear that rises from the insect stigma.
“It’s like: ‘Hey, here’s an insect and it’s not bad; that’s good; we don’t want the kids to be afraid of animals that really are harmless with the proper care,” he said.

The first demonstration

Meehan, in his protective clothing, asked a group of first and second graders to stand back as he calmed the colony with a special smoker.
“Are the bees attacking me?” asked Meehan of the children.
“No,” they answered in unison.
“Right,” said Meehan, “that’s because I used the smoke. The smoke calms the bees so that they don’t get mad when I look inside their home.”
At that, Meehan lifted up a frame of the langstroth hive — an artificial hive designed for that very purpose — and displayed the up-and-coming honeybee colony, not yet at the honey-production stage, but certainly reproducing at a healthy rate, with eggs and larva covering every inch of the brood comb, a cell structure made of beeswax where the queen bee lays her eggs.
“This is the first year. I’m not worried about getting honey right now; I want to be sure that the bees survive,” he explained to the group.
“Can we see the queen bee?” asked one inquisitive child.
“I can’t pull out the queen because I might hurt or kill her,” answered Meehan.
That would not be the last time Meehan would have to field that question before the demonstration’s end.

Ambler Farm

In addition to the new honeybees, Ambler Farm recently adopted ducklings, turkeys and new rabbits.
The Summer Program runs for six weeks from late June through July. At present, it is full up through its first three weeks for 2015.
There is still space available for the July 13 session.
Grades one through seven are welcome, and older children can become counselors through the apprentice program.
“Apprentices make up 95% of our helpers. We have 130 kids in the apprentice program, ranging from grades five through 12,” said Meehan.
All participants, Summer Program or Apprentice Program, will have the opportunity to learn woodworking, gardening and cooking as they prepare the food they harvest from the gardens, which feature raised plant beds and are specially designed for maximum open space, making the learning process less of a traffic jam.
For more information Ambler Farm’s honeybees and other programs, visit: