Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Honey Bee Hoopla at the Conservancy


15-year-old Stephen Gauta is an aspiring beekeeper. After Fenstermaker’s presentation, Gauta hung around and asked a few questions on how to get started. Photos by Samantha Husted

15-year-old Stephen Gauta is an aspiring beekeeper. After Fenstermaker’s presentation, Gauta hung around and asked a few questions on how to get started. Photos by Samantha Husted

In celebration of National Honey Bee Day, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida held a Honey Bee Hoopla event for children and their families.

The Conservancy was buzzing with fun educational activities, bee related arts and crafts, and a special presentation by beekeeper and Conservancy Maintenance Coordinator, Chris Fenstermaker.

“We played a couple different pollination games with the kids throughout the day so they can understand the bees’ role in the ecosystem and why that’s important,” Nature Center Programs Coordinator Katie Ferron said.

Siblings Cash and Thor with a bottle of beekeeper Chris Fenstermaker’s honey.

Siblings Cash and Thor with a bottle of beekeeper Chris Fenstermaker’s honey.

Chris Fenstermaker is a certified Advanced

Beekeeper through the University of Florida (UF) Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab. He maintains his hives on five acres of land out in Golden Gate Estates.

“I enjoy beekeeping because it gives me the opportunity to observe the characteristics of the individual honey bees, as well as characteristics and behaviors of an entire colony,” Fenstermaker said.

About 60 parents and their children sat in for Fenstermaker’s special presentation on the honey bee. He discussed topics ranging from bee and beehive anatomy, the importance of honey bees as pollinators, as well as the mechanics of honey production.

Four-year-old Lovie and mother Lainie examine a sample from Fenstermaker’s hive.

Four-year-old Lovie and mother Lainie examine a sample from Fenstermaker’s hive.

Fenstermaker first got his start as a beekeeper back in 2005, when he came across a feral colony of honey bees in a Southern Red Cedar tree. Instead of feeling frightened or repelled by the sight, he was intrigued.

“I found a feral colony in a tree and it’s such a magnificent sight. I knew that honey bee could be managed. So I got some books and equipment and dove right in,” Fenstermaker said.

Kelsey Felder and Tessa Cafritz were in charge of the arts and crafts portion of the day. The children made honey bees out of pipe cleaners.

Kelsey Felder and Tessa Cafritz were in charge of the arts and crafts portion of the day. The children made honey bees out of pipe cleaners.

Fenstermaker eventually transferred the feral colony into one of his bee boxes using a smoker, a device used to calm honey bees.

“With the honeybees in my bee boxes, I was able to monitor the health of the colony and provide them with assistance to remain healthy,” Fenstermaker said.

At the end of the presentation, Fenstermaker answered questions from the audience, including a few from 15-year-old aspiring beekeeper Stephen Gauta, and raffled off some of his own honey produced by his bees. Those who didn’t receive a bottle were able to sample the honey.

“I am continuously learning, from working with these superorganisms, which helps me to promote the importance of honey bees and other pollinators.”

Coastal Breeze News met with another local beekeeper, whose hives produce honey right on Marco Island. Read all about the Marco Island Honey Company in this issue.

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