There's a new buzz surrounding the Columbia County 4-H program.
The Junior Beekeepers Club started in November and has attracted nearly a dozen fifth-graders eager to work with bees.
"Right now, we're just learning about bees," said Charles Phillips, the club leader and Columbia County's Extension Service agent.
The 4-H members received their honeybees, bought from a beekeeper in Florida, three weeks ago.
Jeremiah Hastings, a fifth-grader at Blue Ridge Elementary School, hasn't let his past experiences with bees deter him from joining the club.
The 10-year-old said he has been stung by bees at least four times, but believes they are helpful for at least one thing.
"I always hated bees until I found out that they helped our economy," he said.
Phillips has become interested in the Colony Collapse Disorder, which has resulted in a decrease of the honeybee population.
He said that an estimated 45 to 70 percent of food is pollinated by honeybees.
"Most all of your fruits are pollinated by honeybees, so if you don't have the honeybees, then there's a lot of things that we eat that we won't have, because you've got to have the pollination," he said.
In February, the 4-H members started constructing their 19-inch-by-17-inch pine beehives. The group has learned about the lifestyle of a honeybee as well as the equipment needed to handle the bees, along with how and what to feed the bees.
Colleen Rager, 10, said she didn't like bees until finding out they were harmless.
"I just thought that they'd be interesting, because it's something I've never done before," said the Blue Ridge Elementary pupil.
Brandi Plumley, a fifth-grader at North Harlem Elementary School, said she'd like to keep the honey produced from the hive.
"I've never actually dealt with bees, and I thought this would be a cool experience," the 10-year-old said.
Brandi's stepfather, Duane Starrenburg, attended a recent meeting and said bees are important for the environment.
"Time is of the essence to help the bee populations," he said. "We need more young people to carry on the tradition."
Before starting the club, Phillips said he had not heard of any youth beekeeping clubs in the area.
He also emphasized the importance of helping the younger generation become involved in the time-honored practice of beekeeping. The club, he said, offers 4-H members the chance to participate in hands-on work and learn responsibility.
"The 4-H motto is learn by doing," Phillips said. "It's something they're going to have to take care of and be responsible for, so it's something that could benefit the 4-H program and the (4-H members) greatly."
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