9-year-old shares secrets of bee keeping

Anne Marie, her 7-year-old sister Rose and their brother John Paul, 5, all work with the bees as a 4-H project.

Experts have long known that hands-on learning is the best way to teach a child. Hands-on learning takes on a whole new meaning, though, when the subject is honeybees.

That's not scaring off 9-year-old Anne Marie Quinn of Monroe City. She has yet to be stung by a member of her hiveâ??mosquitoes are not nearly as friendly.

â??One time, I felt like something was crawling up on me,â?? Anne Marie told me. â??I picked up the bee bare-handed. I tried to put it on a flower, but it was like he didn't want to leave me.â??

Anne Marie didn't get to keep the bee as a pet, but she's grown very fond of her hive since she started it a few weeks ago at the Monroe City Community Garden. Anne Marie, her 7-year-old sister Rose and their brother John Paul, 5, all work with the bees as a 4-H project. The kids are home-schooled, so bee-keeping is a class all by itself. Anne Marie's knowledge is vastâ??and that may be an understatement.

A disclaimer: Anne Marie is my niece. But I'm telling you it's not exaggeration to say she is one of the most precocious, well-spoken 9-year-olds you'll ever meet.

For instance, I asked Anne Marie about the smoker they use to subdue the bees. She delivers the most enthusiastic response.

â??They think it's a fire and they say, 'Oh dear!' So then they go back to their hive and eat a bunch of honey. When there's no more smoke, they go 'Whew! Thank goodness!â?? and they go back to their business.â??

Anne Marie castigated Aunt Sarah when I asked, â??So bees talk, Anne Marie?â??

â??Yes they do! But they don't talk with their mouths, they communicate with their bodies.â??

She went on to explain what she calls the â??waggle dance,â?? where honeybees use their hind ends to point out the direction of a pollen collection point.

Now I think Anne Marie and her siblings are pretty brave to be working with bees, but she brushes off the compliment.

â??When they get used to you, they'll be nice to you. They are funny little creatures.â??

She went on to offer this advice to those of us scaredy cats who cross paths with random stinging insects: â??Here's the secret to not getting stung...don't move a lot.â?? In other words, no swatting, screaming or general hysterics.

If Anne Marie could choose the bee she'd like to be, she'd go for the Queen, of course. The Queen is the boss of the hive. She is pampered and served by her workers and drones (perhaps you know people who fit this description).

The best part: â??The other bees feed her royal jelly,â?? Anne Marie told me. â??She gets fatter than the other bees, and she can't even fly much because her belly's so fat and her wings are so small.â??

It cost about 500 dollars to get the new hive established. It's certainly a welcome addition to the Community Garden. It's a win-win situation, with the bees doing all the work. The bees pollinate plants for the gardeners, then they provide honey and wax for the Quinn kids.

â??Did you know that you can make lip balm from the wax, Aunt Sarah?â?? The kids tried their first batch with a little added lavender as a present to their mom on Mother's Day.

â??You can also add a little color to it,â?? Anne Marie told me. â??I want to do blue chap stick. Wouldn't that be funny?â??

Funny indeed, Anne Marie!

Take care,

Sarah D.