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Meet the bees

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I'll bet you'd like to meet our friend Bob De Clercq and his son Peter. After all, it isn't every day that you get to watch a couple of beekeepers in action. It's hard to tell them apart today because they're both wearing bee veils over their heads and shoulders. But Bob's the one with heavy gloves on and Peter's the one with the bee smoker.

We'd been hoping for a hot, sunny afternoon to look inside their new beehive since that's when the bees are usually out gathering nectar. On cool, cloudy days like today, they tend to stay at home and can get kind of cross if anyone bothers them. That's why Peter's blowing smoke on them -- to make them back up inside the hive and eat more honey. That way, they'll get full and sleepy and won't be too interested in what we're doing -- we hope!

Let's go a little closer and look at the frame Bob's just pulled out of the hive. It's about the size of a windowpane, but it's made of wood, and at the moment it's covered with hundreds of bees. If you can look between all those buzzing bodies, you can probably see several shades of yellow and orange.

The brownish-orange areas are the bee nurseries, where hundreds of baby bees are all curled up inside their little wax rooms, eating beebread and royal jelly. Sounds good, huh? The light yellow crescents at the top of the frame are full of honey -- and I don't have to tell you how good that is!

Now look at the bees carefully and you might be able to see tiny yellow pouches on their legs. Those are the ``pollen baskets'' where they store the powder that scrapes off on them when they crawl in and out of flowers. Bees use pollen to make bee-bread and wax, and the nectar they suck out of flowers is turned into honey.

Know what else they like to drink? Water, of course. Sometimes, after a summer storm, the bees will fly right up to the De Clercqs' back porch and drink fresh rainwater off the arms of the chairs there.

No one in this family is afraid of bees because they won't sting if they're left alone. Peter's mom even hangs her wash on the clothesline right next to the beehive because she says she likes to hear them humming to themselves while she works!


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