Saturday, October 10, 2009

Farm Safety Day

Each year, Peace Bee Farm participates with a large number of governmental agencies and agricultural businesses in a farm safety program in West Memphis, Arkansas for fifth-grade students. The purpose of the program is to inform these young people of the many potential hazards that may be present on the farm. The program also exposes the children to the wide range of activities to be found on farms. The students rotate through a series of stations, each devoted to a particular aspect of farm activity. The fire department brings in a portable fire safety house. There is a station for tractor safety and a most interesting demonstration of the hazards associated with grain storage and handling equipment. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officers conduct a firearms safety session for each of the students. Other experts tell how to identify and avoid the venomous snakes which can be found in the Arkansas Delta. The children are all given the opportunity to handle a non-venomous speckled kingsnake.

Rita and I spoke to the 200 children in attendance about safety around honey bee hives. We explained that honey bees are relatively gentle insects that rarely sting except in defense of their nest, the bee hive. The sting of 500 honey bees is roughly equivalent to the venom available from a rattlesnake. A bee hive will typically have 2000 guard bees protecting the entrance to the hive. Each hive, therefore, has the equivalent of four rattlesnakes on duty. Colonies with Africanized Honey Bee genes engage even more bees to guard the brood nest. We tried to warn the students of the danger associated with vandalizing bee hives. Unfortunately, vandalism is fairly common in many places that honey bees are kept. After a few brief words about safety around bee hives, we were able to answer numerous questions about the life of honey bees. Upon returning to the farm, we found the Welsummer chickens relaxing around the barbecue grill.

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