Kids Q & A about bees

by Flow Hive 17 min read

Today was kids' Q & A at Cedar’s house. He harvested some honey, played some bee bass and dressed as a busy bee! Cedar’s kids, Jarli and Mela, joined in to sample some honey and share their own beekeeping wisdom. We had lots of great questions, like how do bees decide which jobs to do? What’s their favourite colour? And the all-important question, what happens if you eat bee poo? 





Thank you for joining us here this morning on Flow BeeTV. We're playing the bass guitar made from a beehive, and we're also going to harvest some honey and do kids' Q & A this morning. So if you're about this big or smaller, you can ask questions, put them in the comments and we'll get to them. I've beamed in Trace, who's usually with us at the office, but we're in lockdown so she's not here. And she is coming out of my pocket as a voice coming out of my pocket. Trace, you there? Excellent. Give us a thumbs up if you can hear Trace coming out of my pocket. 

Last time I wore this bee suit on camera, I actually put it on tofly off the top of a mountain to deliver the first Flow Hive in the world to the winner of our fundraiser competition. We raised a hundred thousand dollars to give to the aid of the Vanuatu cyclone. 

Now what we're going to do is get some honey out of this hive here. So I've got a tube, which is going right here. And I can insert it into the hive and put the jar underneath. And then all we need is a special key to turn the frame from being in hexagon cells, into pathways for the honey to flow down and out into the jar. So now what's happening inside is these hexagon cells are moving and the honey is going to flow down into this trough at the bottom then out into this jar. My kids might be somewhere around here. As soon as honey starts flowing, they come running. I can see honey starting to come down the tube and soon there'll be yummy honey in my honeypot. It's been a bit of a cold night here, so the honey's moving slower today. Yum, yum, yum. I have to say, I do love honey. Any questions coming in Trace?


Yes Cedar, some great questions coming in and hopefully you can all hear me out there.

Beekeeping Questions From Kids

How do the bees get into the hive? (Tessa, 7)

How do bees get into the hive? Now, let me see, they must be getting in somewhere around here. Oh, it's not on this side. Let's have a look around here. Past this kale in the garden. My sister, the bee spy who lives here with us is holding the camera. And here we go. There's the bees flying in and out of the hive and they're free to come and go. They're not locked in like many other animals who are penned into a paddock or in a cage they're free to come and go. And sometimes they do all just leave or sometimes justhalf of them leave. But mostly they stay because they like the homes we give them. Great question.

When the bees are whizzing around and going out and having their little adventures everywhere, how far do they travel? And then how often do they come back to their home?

Well, bees are pretty amazing little insects. They travel really far, like six miles, 10 kilometres away, which is so far to fly when you've only got tiny little wings and you're only this big. They can fly 10 kilometres. Imagine that, it's incredible. So off they go looking for flowers. Now what happens is some bees in here, their job is to look for flowers that have nice amounts of juicy nectar. So they fly out, they find those flowers, they come back in the dark, inside the hive, they do a dance and tell the other bees exactly where the flowers are. And usually it's within say three kilometres, but sometimes it'd be as far as 10 and the other bees will follow. But you know what happens if the flowers run out and they get there and there's no nectar in the flowers anymore? They'll come back to the hive, they'll find that bee in the hive. And they'll jump on it and hold it down so it can't dance anymore. And that way they're able to tell where the flowers are and they're able to say when the flowers are no good anymore. And communicate everything they need to get the bees to go and get all of that juicy nectar and turn it into honey.

What if the bees go out and it's a nice sunny day, and then there's a big storm and it starts raining. How are they going to find their way back home? (Alan)

Ah well, some bees do stay out for the night. They camp out and they'll get on a leaf, like this, and they hang on to the bottom and shelter there all night and they'll come back the next day. So they will stay out for the night if they have to. But they're actually pretty good at flying in the rain. They can get a little bump from a raindrop and do a flip in the air and then just keep flying home. So mostly they make it home.

What flowers do bees like best? And what's their favourite colour? (Rosie, 4&½)

So bees' favourite colours? Well, they like all sorts of flowers. And the main thing is the sweet nectar, but they do love purple flowers.


Okay. This little bee jumped in the honey. That's a bit naughty, you know, jumping in the honey. But you can't blame them, bees love honey too. You can see her cleaning herself here. It's a beautiful thing to watch. If I just put that back on the landing board, the other bees will lick any honey that's stuck on her and she will be just fine.


I thought you were about to eat that bee, Cedar.


Well, I don't eat bees. I'm a vegetarian, so I don't eat bees. There are other things that eat bees around the place. Like we have these cane toads and they can get this big and they love eating bees. They jump on the hive at nighttime and then the guard bees come out to see what's going on. Who's knocking on the door? And the cane toad with its big tongue gobbles up the bees. And it'll do that all night. And that's why we put it up on this little stand in order to get it off the ground. So the cane toads don't eat the bees.

If a cane toad does eat a bee, does it get stung? (Kai)

Well, it doesn't seem to. Maybe they do and they don't care. But you'd think that the tongue and the mouth and everything would get stung for sure. But maybe they like getting stung, I'm not sure.

How many bees are there in one hive? (Lucas, 9)

Let's have a look in this side window and see what's going on. So this hive isn't very busy right now, actually, which is kind of good because it's springtime. And if they're really busy now, what tends to happen is half of them take off and form a new colony. But it's a nice, slow buildup. You can see them coming for the light actually, as they're coming to the window here now. But when a hive is really busy, it can have 50,000 bees, which is absolutely incredible. And if you do the maths on that, the bees can pollinate 50 million flowers a day, which is insane. It's wild. It's like no other insect on the planet can do that for us. And that's why humans have dragged them all around the world, wherever they go because they're such incredible pollinators. And we all know if we don't pollinate the flowers, we don't get the fruits, we don't get the nuts and the trees can't reproduce.

Will the bees be attracted to the light of a fire at night? (Aidan)

Not usually a fire, but they will go for a bright light. Like if you've got a bright light in front of your house, really close to the front of the hive where the entrance of the hive can see the light, the bees can get a bit confused about what's going on. You may find some bees buzzing around that light at night.

What sort of jobs can kids do when they get the Flow Hive? (Annabelle, 7)

Well, they can jar up the honey and can have a lot of fun putting lids and labels on. And then maybe putting them out by the roadside. You might start a stall or you might give them away to your neighbours or things like that. But also they can get in a beekeeping suit like this, and actually help doing the beekeeping. Jarli loves to get in there and hold up frames and have a look at what's going on in the hive.


You guys want to come harvest some honey?


We've got some more jars, that's great. This is Jarli and Mela. Mela's name means honey. And we've got some honey there. What do you think?

Do bees pee and poop? (Nate, 6)

They do actually. Have you ever noticed little yellow dots that get all over the place? You can see a couple of yellow dots on this roof here. Now, if you scratch and sniff there, you can actually notice that that is bee poo. It's like pooey pollen in its fragrance and that's the bees' poo. So they certainly don't poo inside the hive. They're very organised and they'll only poop outside the hive.


Well, we've got one full jar of honey almost. And do you want to put another jar under there? Okay. Jarli's got grand plans to start his own hive and sell the jars so he can buy some Lego.

Why did you invent the Flow Hive? (Eliza, 11)

That's a great question. Now, the reason why I invented it is because I was harvesting honey in the conventional way. Which means taking the hive apart, taking the frames out, you're in your bee suit, you've got your smoker. You're taking those frames to a processing shed, which in this case was the shed that I lived in as well, which is just down the hill here. And it's all a big sticky mess. And it takes all weekend to get your honey that way. You've got to put it in this big spinning machine and spin all that honey out. And then you've got to get those frames and take them back to the hive again. And the bees get quite annoyed about the whole process. And I thought, this is a lot of work, can't we just pipe it out of the hive? Like just turn a tap and the honey comes out. And that's what sparked a decade-long journey of inventing with my father to invent theFlow Frames. And it's been a wonderful thing to be able to share it with you all out there. Now there's a lot of people around the world, harvesting honey in a completely different way. And being able to enjoy this experience of the honey, just flowing out into your jars.


What does the honey taste like, kids?


It tastes a lot like, ... it's very strong honey,


Strong honey, it is, isn't it?


What's your favourite thing to have honey on?




Wow, toast, is that for me?




You can just pop it right under there, if you want. Yummy, honey on toast.

This is a question for Jarli. Why is all the honey different colours? (Archie, 5)


Because the honey's from different flowers,


Good answer! Each flower has different tasting nectar that turns into honey and also different colours.

Will the bees sting our chickens? Will the chickens eat the bees?

Well, mostly chickens and bees get along quite okay and the person to answer that question is probably someone by the name ofFred Dunn, who knows a lot about chickens and a lot about these. But as far as I know, they get along quite okay most of the time. But I have heard of issues where there's been a particularly grumpy hive that has stung chickens. But otherwise, they just get along fine and you will actually find a nice symbiotic relationship where the chickens will eat the small hive beetles, which are a pest that can annoy beehives.

We've got a Flow Hive and I'm excited because we're doing a split on Sunday. (Mason, 12)

Yeah, absolutely doing ahive split is a fun thing to do. And it also gives you a whole other beehive, which is fantastic. It's my favourite thing to do in springtime because sometimes the bees are really breeding up and it's a good idea to take a hive split. Because otherwise they split themselves and half of them might fly away over the hill to somewhere else. So if you take your hive splits in spring when the bees build up, then they probably won't do their swarming thing where half of them fly away.

Mela, you seem to be loving that honey. Do you love having your honey on toast or on fingers?


On toast!


She loves honey pretty much anyways. She's also got bee socks on.

How fast do bees fly?

Buzzy, buzzy bees. They can fly up to about 40 kilometres an hour, which is quite fast. If you put your hand out the window, which you're not supposed to do, when you're going 40 kilometres an hour and you can feel that wind on your hand. Imagine being able to fly that fast as a little bee. It's incredibly quick and they zigzag their way towards where they're going in what looks like a bit of a zigzag, but it's actually a fairly straight line. Which is where the word beeline comes from.

What are all the jobs of the different bees? And how do they know what they're supposed to be doing? (Jason)

Well, it's a bit of a mystery how a hive can organise itself. There's a queen bee, but she's not running around telling everybody what to do. In fact, the hive can get along okay for a while without the queen at all. So who's making all the decisions on who does what? And it seems to be some sort of group consciousness where somehow the hive together, 50,000 bees are able to decide what needs to get done and get it done. So one bee might just make one tiny part of a wax cell in the brood box down here. And the other bees know that they can just join in and keep completing that amazing pattern. And then what can happen, let's say if you move your beehive and all the foragers go into some other hive because you've taken it away in the middle of the day, then a whole lot of the bees in the hive will change jobs and turn into forager bees, which are the bees that go out and get the nectar and pollen. So somehow they're able to organise themselves and change jobs as they go. 

The first job they do is clean the cell they emerge out of as a young baby bee. And then they go and feed babies and things like that in the hive. And then they start to get new jobs. They could be undertakers, where they're carrying out bees that have died in the hive. And then it's about halfway through their life that they might be able to go out and collect nectar and pollen from flowers. And the last job in this short life, which may only last a month as a worker bee, is collecting water and bringing that back into the hive for cooling. Bees are amazing at air conditioning. They like to keep the hive at a very special temperature in order for the babies to survive. And they do that by collecting and fanning that water to cool the home. And when they want to warm the hive, they disconnect their wing muscles and vibrate, and that warms up the hive. So they're able to cool and they're able to warm the hive and keep it all going. So who knows how they decide who does what? But it's an amazing piece of nature having so many bees able to organise themselves. We call it a superorganism.

Jarli, do you ever get stung by the bees?




And how does it feel?


It hurts a little bit.


So Jarli got stung beekeeping the other day inside a hive. Dad was getting a bit relaxed. Didn't bother getting the gloves. He was pulling frames out of the hive with no gloves on. Best to start off with gloves for all you new beekeepers out there. And he put his finger on a bee and got a sting and it was ouch, ouch, ouch! And then we got the stinger out and then you kept beekeeping. Way to go.


I got a comment from Chuck actually, who's one of our ambassadors. And he was just saying last Saturday on National Honeybee Day he had lots of kids visiting his stall. And they all earned an "I found the queen" sticker, for seeing the queen in the observation hive. We got some new beekeepers there thanks to the Flow Hive.


Excellent. It's a wonderful thing to be inspiring so many new beekeepers .and what a cool thing to be able to have an observation hive and spot the queen. It's like playing Where's Wally, isn't it? And in the USA it's Where's Waldo. And it's it's like looking at all of these bees. Now this hive doesn't have an excluder. So technically the queen could be up here, but she's usually not. And she's a bit longer, she's got a pointy bum, she's got a a shiny back plate at the top and bigger legs. But otherwise she looks very similar to all the other bees. It's hard to spot her, so well done to whoever spotted the queen.

How does the queen become a queen? And how do they know which one is the queen? (Eric).

There's this big word called epigenetics, where in the DNA code in a bee, you can turn on and off genes. Now what the switch is for bees is plant proteins. So as soon as a young larva is fed plant proteins, it'll turn into a worker bee. If it's not fed plant proteins, which is pollen, it'll turn into a queen. So the queens are only fed on what's called royal jelly, which is an excretion from the bees. And then they'll turn into a queen bee, which means they supersize and grow bigger legs. They have the ability to lay up to a couple of thousand eggs in a day. And it's amazing that they all start off as the same thing.

How long does the queen live for?

That's another thing that happens with epigenetics. The queen will then live for up to six years, compared to a worker bee, just living for a month. So how's that? They start off as the same thing. One's fed one thing, one's fed another, one lives for six years, one lives for only a month. So kids just watch what you eat!

What does the capped honey look like?

Well, if you have a look in the hive, you'll see honey that's been capped over by the bees. So the bees will decide that the honey's moisture content is low enough. They're wanting to make it nice and thick so it'll last and not go fermented and icky. And when they've got that moisture content low enough, they'll put the capping, which is just wax at the top. It's a bit like putting the lid on a preserving jar and saying that honey is good to keep for a long time. And that's what we want to see before we harvest the honey.

Is it a good idea to paint the roof of the hive a colour that bees will be attracted to?

It wouldn't matter at all which colour you paint the roof. You can paint it rainbows. You can paint it blue, red. It Doesn't really matter at all. What matters is the flowers and the colours. Bees have this crazy vision where they see in ultraviolet and flowers look different to them than to us. In one petal, they might see all of these patterns and shapes. And the bees are particularly attracted to purple flowers. But flowers in general, the ones that have nectar.

Eliza is demanding Royal jelly for breakfast. Do you think Eliza might turn into a queen if she lives on Royal jelly?

Well, could be possible. And humans being humans, do harvest and eat royal jelly. And I'm not sure what the effect is. Let me know in a few years.

Is that hive sloping towards the rear? Is that why the honey drains out and doesn't get stuck?

That's absolutely right. The slope is about three degrees backwards. It's just a little slope. It's like putting something a little bit less than an inch at the front. And it provides a gentle slope for the honey to drain down from the top to the bottom and out of the hive.

Did you design the roof so you could put all your honey jars up there or was it just by accident?

That was just by accident actually, but it does make a nice spot to put lots of honey jars. It can look really cool. I've seen some people will make these pyramids of honey jars, right on top of the hive. And I'm sure there are some people out there where the wind's blown it over. And that would be a little bit sad if any jars broke. But mostly we just put a few jars on top. This one seems quite stable up there. It's a really dark honey. Here in the wintertime, we get this amazing dark honey and it can get so dark here, we cannot even see through the honey at all. This honey is more of a dark red colour.

Are there any other girls in the hive, apart from the queen? (Eliza, 7)

Well, the worker bees are girls, so that's most of the hive. All the worker bees do all of the work and they're all girls and they don't usually lay eggs. But if the queen stops laying for some reason, then some of them will actually start laying eggs. But they're unfertilized eggs. And then that means they'll turn into only being male bees, which is a bit of a problem because male bees don't do any of the work in the hive. So in the end, what can happen if you lose your queen and the workers start laying eggs, the hive turns into a whole lot of lazy males that don't do the dishes or anything else in the hive. And the whole thing collapses, just like some shared houses in Byron Bay.

What happens if you eat the bee poo?

Well, I'm not sure. Should we have a taste? I'm not sure if bee poo is a delicacy. I'm pretty sure it's not good to eat any kind of poo, kids. So it's best not to eat it.

Can I put a Flow Hive next to a native beehive?

Yes, you can. I've got native beehives and I have the European honeybee, which are these honey bees and they get along just fine. My sister's got about 12 hives down here in the paddock below and there's two little native bees right there as well. And she loves to film them playing together on the flowers. Mostly they get along just fine. And sometimes you'll see a native bee actually going, "Hey, this is my flower." And they're only a tiny, tiny, weeny little bee.


I've got a shot of that. I'll have to post it on Facebook this week.


Yeah. We'll post to show that she caught some action. Mostly when I've been filming them on flowers together, they've just been happily doing their thing. But in this case, one little native was saying, "Hey, back off big bee."

When queens have a coloured dot, what does the colour mean? (Noah)

Queen breeders will put a coloured dot on their queens often and why they do that is so it's easier to spot next time, but also the colour is a code for the year. So they'll choose a different colour next year. And that way you can get an idea of how old your queen is and go, "wow that queen's been in my hive for five years". Because it might've been a green dot you used five years ago.

What sort of lavender plant is that in your garden?

No, this isn't lavender. It's a type of basil that flowers and flowers and flowers all the time, all year round, which is fun. And you can see the beautiful flowers here. And the bees do like them though I can't see any foraging right now. But it's a beautiful perennial basil. So it's nice to have some flowers that grow right through the winter here.

Mira, the bee spy has spotted some bees foraging on these rocket flowers. It's a nice idea to let your things go to seed in the garden. It creates more forage for bees and pollinators and you see native bees coming into your garden to get those. And you see the European bees and it's a wonderful thing to leave spaces to just go a bit wild. Okay. We've got time for one more question.

Grasshoppers! Grasshoppers are returning. It's our springtime. Thank you very much for tuning in everyone and for all your great questions, kids. We'll keep answering them in the chat below and good luck in the lockdown. If you're in New South Wales here in Australia, make sure you get out in the garden. It's a wonderful thing that's come out of a challenging time is the need and want to get back into the garden, playing with the bees and the trees and the flowers.

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