Come see a hive work its magic at the Clark County Fair
RIDGEFIELD — A family walked into the Bee Barn and, yes, made a beeline for the hive.
Thousands of bees behind glass, showing off just a glimpse of the work that they do, greet visitors to the Bee Barn at the Clark County Fair.
A young girl in the family stared at the hive.
Then she spotted what she was looking for at that moment.
The queen bee.
To be fair, the folks at the Bee Barn place a pink dot on the back of the queen. Still, with thousands of bees acting quite busy — this particular part of the hive could have 20,000 bees — the queen can be tough to spot.
The young girl was thrilled with her discovery. She pointed it out to her family. Then others gathered around the family to see the queen.
Just like that, a young girl was hooked on bees. Her curiosity led to questions. And at the Bee Barn, there are expert volunteers there to give all the buzz about bees.
“It’s just education. It’s outreach to the community to tell them about bees and take away some of the fear and help people understand what they do and why they do it,” said Dean Mathews, who has been helping out at the fair for three years.
Mathews is not a lifelong expert. In fact, it was only a few years ago when he and his wife Jen really got interested in bees. They bought some property in Salmon Creek and wanted to grow a garden. They had a friend who had bees, so they asked some questions.
“We thought it would be nice if we had pollinators right here on the property,” Dean Mathews said.
They started with two hives. They now have three. And soon it could be four or five.
To be perfectly honest, Mathews said he has been stung many, many times. But he does take the honey from the bees. They have a right to be upset. For the most part, though, bees are not about attacking people.
“Bees don’t want to sting people. Instinctively, they don’t want to sting people,” Mathews said. “They want to scavenge and collect and prepare for winter. That’s what they want to do. If you step on one in the grass, it will probably sting you because it’s about to die. If you are doing a hive inspection or tearing their hive apart, they sometimes get a little grumpy about that. Otherwise, they have a job to do.
“Bees’ whole existence is about preparing for the winter … collecting enough honey and food to get them through the next winter, and go and do it over again. They pollinate. That’s what they do.”
Mathews added that bees are one of the most important parts of the food chain for us humans.
The Bee Farm at the Clark County Fair has charts, posters, and graphics detailing the importance of bees. Plus, those volunteer experts are there to answer questions.
That’s the biggest benefit for the volunteers, to see someone’s opinion change from a negative to a positive in regard to bees.
He noted that earlier on Monday a girl saw the thousands of bees in the hive behind the glass and gave an icky face.
But then he gave a quick tutorial, noting how busy the bees are, and how the queen can lay 1,500 to 2,000 eggs a day.
“If you can educate them a little bit, they go, ‘Wow.’ Instead of fear, it turns into inquisitiveness and curiosity,” Mathews said. “People eventually understand they are here to do a job.”
The bees will be on display throughout the Clark County Fair’s 10-day run.
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