To celebrate the National Honey Bee holiday that the animals would definitely also be into, we made this art print of Nicholas Bear Cub and Catalina Mouse tending their beehive.
WHAT ARE THE ANIMALS DOING?
As you can see, Catalina Mouse is operating the smoker. It's a useful contraption that spits out smoke when she turns the crank. When the bees smell smoke, they think a fire is nearby. They quickly settle down in their hive and eat as much honey as they can, in case they need to evacuate. So they are too busy, contented, and fat to sting. What a smart beekeeping trick!
Nicholas Bear Cub has taken off the lid of the hive, and he is inspecting one of the frames of honeycomb. It used to be a plain wooden frame, but once the bees went into the beehive, they built a honeycomb structure out of beeswax all inside the frame. The other frames in the hive also have similar honeycomb in them. The bees use different sections of honeycomb to do different things. They take care of the queen and all the eggs she lays; raise the baby bees once they hatch and they are tiny worm-like larvae, and store honey and pollen for the winter. Each six-sided bit of honeycomb is a tiny container for keeping something. How orderly and cute!
Nicholas is looking at the honeycomb to find the queen bee and see if she has laid eggs recently, to check for beehive pests like mites and beetles, and to see if the bees have made enough honey. The bees need enough honey for themselves to stay strong and healthy through the winter. If they have made extra, the animals can harvest some honey to eat.
WHY ARE THEY WEARING THOSE FUNNY CLOTHES?
Both of the animals are wearing protective clothes, to protect themselves from any bees who are not fooled by the smoke. They have loose suits that cover their whole bodies, and hats with veils so bees can't fly near their faces. You can see that a couple of bees are flying behind Nicholas's head, but they won't be able to reach him. And Nicholas has thick mittens to cover his paws. We found out that human beekeepers would never be able to get anything done with thick mittens, because they need to perform gentle and delicate maneuvers to take care of the bees. Good thing the animals can get everything done with their mitten-like paws!
WHY DO THE ANIMALS LIKE BEES?
Naturally, Catalina and Nicholas are friends to all the creatures of the forest. And naturally, they love to eat honey on their oatmeal and in their walnut chewy cookies. But they take special care of these beehives because the bees pollinate all the flowers of the village. Many flowers need to get pollen from a different flower before they can develop a fruit. Every time the bees visit a new flower, they share bits of pollen from the other flowers they visited recently. So because of the bees, the vegetables grow big in Reginald's garden; the berries are ripe and plentiful on the brambleberry hedge; and the orchard is full of apples, peaches, and hazelnuts. Also, the meadows are full of lovely wildflowers.
WHAT ELSE DO THEY DO TO TAKE CARE OF BEES?
The animals know that the more flowers they plant, the happier the bees and the more nectar they can gather for their honey. This makes them garden all the more avidly.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO TAKE CARE OF BEES?
Also garden avidly, and buy local honey!
In the human world, we have pesticides that the Hazel Village animals have no idea about. Try not to use them! Synthetic herbicides and fertilizers are not great either, but pesticides are the worst because they are designed to kill bugs, and bees are a type of bug. Specifically, a lot of beekeepers think systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids are really terrible for bees and frequently poison entire hives. Neonicotinoids are in a lot of popular all-purpose gardening pesticides. "Systemic" means that the chemical gets into the entire plant, and any bug or bee who eats that plant for the rest of the season will get a dose.
So if you must use pesticides because your garden is not as charmed as Reginald Fox's garden, you can help the bees a lot by definitely not using systemic pesticides, and definitely not using pesticides on a plant that is flowering. Because the nectar and pollen from flowers is what the bees want to eat.
HOW DID YOU LEARN ALL THIS?
The animals know about bees and beekeeping partly because their friends taught them useful tips, partly from practice making perfect, and partly from the mystical wisdom of the forest. Their human interlocutor, however, got all her bee knowledge from friend of the village Hilary Kearney, and her excellent blog and Instagram. You can read my interview with her here. Thanks, Hilary!
To learn more about the importance of bees and how to help them, check out this downloadable sheet with facts and a coloring page!
You can buy the art print here.