the beeman cometh to the washington youth garden

pollen and pollenators was the topic at hand
on our most recent SPROUT journey at the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum.
Beekeeper Shawn gave us the run-down of bee anatomy and hive life.

for example,
you can tell what is inside an individual honeycomb cell by the shape of its cap.
bees build the honeycomb from the top and eventually connect the disparate pieces…

until it becomes a single honeycomb.

another one of our garden guides, Ms. Purple,
expounded on the many different types of pollinating bees.
besides honeybees, there are carpenter bees and bumble bees,
shaggy fuzzyfoot bees, japanese horn-faced bees, sweat bees, and squash bees
to name a few displayed here.

with all this information swirling around in our heads
we were ready to see bees in action at the beehive!

Beekeeper Shawn prepared his smoker to work its magic.
he told us that the smoke doesn’t actually make bees calm,
rather the bees think there is a fire
so they load their honey pouches with honey
in an effort to save some of their hard-earned work.
their honey pouches are so full
that they can’t even bend their abdomens in order to sting.
it’s almost like they’re honey-drunk.

we all got to sample fresh honey.
our store-bought honey bears will never be the same.

next, time for a garden scavenger hunt
looking for other types of pollinators
like butterflies fluttering around the strawberries,

and flies buzzing around the mint.

you better believe we rubbed, sniffed and nibbled on a bit of everything that we could,
including fresh deliciously tender asparagus. wow!

near the edge of the garden are a pair of pawpaw trees
whose brown blossoms are reminiscent of…
well, uh, how do i put this politely…
feces.
pollinators who prefer this distinct scent
— like the zebra swallowtail butterfly —
help the tree bear its fruit.
there’s a catch though:
the pollen has to come from a totally different pawpaw tree
rather than just a different flower on the same pawpaw.
that’s why these pawpaws are planted as a pair.

when you visit the WYG, make a special request to play
the Pollen Relay Game.
lots of fun. trust me on this.

lastly, Ms. Purple shared one of her favorite pollination picture books,
The Reason for a Flower, by Ruth Heller.

what better way to finish off a nectarous day
than with a romp in the Youth Garden’s natural play area.
wooden logs have never been more entertaining.

breaking news:
the WYG has SPROUT sessions specifically geared towards homeschoolers on June 20 and July 26. check them out!

what’s your favorite Washington Youth Garden SPROUT program?

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