The Science Room is always a 'hive of activity', but on Friday
20 June this became literally true, when Mr Phil Webb, a Junior School parent and keen
beekeeper, came to present our latest Junior Inspire Me Event.
An enthusiastic audience of Year 5 students listened intently as
Mr Webb outlined the history of this ancient, yet ultra-modern, practice, which
has always demanded the utmost patience, ingenuity and even courage. The
students were wowed by the daring involved in collecting wild honey, where
being stung is often the least of the collector's worries, as pictures of men
suspended on rickety rope ladders above sheer cliffs amply testified!
We learned, therefore, that safety was one of the main reasons
why people started to keep bees in artificial hives; another that this process
of domestication ensured a more reliable source of honey, and the possibility
of greatly increasing yields.
Mr Webb brought in a 'virtual' hive: a full-size model of the
real thing, which allowed the students to take it apart, examine the beautiful,
complex structures of the honey combs and see with incredible clarity where the
bees live, where they keep their pollen, how they feed their young, and so on.
This opportunity for a hands-on experience of a three-dimensional
hive also served to reinforce the central point of Mr Webb's talk, as implied
in the title, that the key technological advances in beekeeping actually
involve space. The most important of these, we learned, is the idea of the
"bee space" - a precise distance which allows bees to crawl between
two surfaces, and which has turned out to be critical to creating an efficient,
As well as learning about the amazing potential of simple low-tech
ways of solving practical problems, the students were also fascinated by what
they learned about the biology of bees, including their complex social
organisation, precise, geometrical construction skills, and the phenomenal
reproductive capacity of the queen: able to produce up to 2000 eggs per day!
A highlight of the event came at the end, when the students
relished the opportunity to sample some honey straight from the comb and the
elegantly packaged end product itself: thus satisfying more than just their
We are very grateful to Mr Webb for all the effort he put into
organising and delivering a most stimulating session. The many questions and
contributions from the Year 5s demonstrated that the event had engaged their
scientific, mathematical and social understanding, and they went away with a lot
more appreciation for the humble, hardworking, honey bee!