RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Robert Stapleton has worked with bees for 45 years, and now he is passing the torch in the form of a smoker to the next generation.
“This is what you call an outer cover,” Stapleton points out parts of a standard hive to youth beekeepers gathering around him.
Thirteen-year-old Grant Condrey is one of them. “The bees interest me with all their hard work and how dedicated they are.”
Condrey is one of three kids receiving his own hive this summer through a program started about five years ago by the Richmond Beekeepers Association. The honeybee population has been declining for years, but we rely on the tiny creatures in a big way.
“We would only have about 1/3 of our food supply if we didn’t have the bees pollinating them,” explains R.D. Radford of the Richmond Beekeepers Association.
Adds Stapleton, “Everything from an apple to zucchini squash would dry up because you wouldn’t have that fruit.”
The young beekeepers learn that honey harvested is a sweet reward, but they also witness the work that goes into it.
There are anywhere from 80,000 to 120,000 honeybees in a standard hive. All of them have their own role and surprisingly gentle temperaments.
Nine-year-old Macon Grier plans to share what he’s learned about the bees at school this fall.
“I’m looking forward to teaching at least two or three people, even though my sister is not happy that I have them,” he says matter-of-factly, as the adults around him laugh at the bee misconceptions this young boy is trying to ease.
Fourteen-year-old Seth Wassenberg says he is proud to have his own hive now and have a hand in preserving the future of honeybees, so-called angels of agriculture, in our community.
“If nobody, no young people pick it up then there’s nobody gonna continue it,” explains Wassenberg.
As part of the program, the young beekeepers all now have to give presentations from time-to-time about the lessons in science, math and teamwork they are learning.