The World of Bees

 

By Louise I. Lynch

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Come explore The World of Bees, an interactive children’s exhibit about bee diversity and conservation.  The exhibit is being hosted by the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall on Hudson, New York. It opened September 24, 2011 and will remain open for one year. Though the target audience is 3 to 8 year olds, it will be fun and informative for adults, too! The World of Bees was curated by Louise I. Lynch as part of her MS degree in Entomology with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to raise awareness about the conservation of these extraordinary organisms.

A tiny bee can conjure up a range of emotions, from admiration to, unfortunately, fear. These small, winged pollinators generously provide us with fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and wild flowers, along with wax and honey. For these reasons, bees have long been a fascination to humankind; they are symbols of leadership and selfless hard work, a source of sustenance and light, and simply, natural curiosities.

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The European honey bee is our most valuable commercial pollinator thus it often garners the most attention, yet it is only one of an estimated 20,000 bee species found in the world.  Bees are an eclectic group of beings!  They are agriculturalists, artists, architects, miners, and carpenters. Bees come in many colors (metallic green to furry black and yellow), have a variety of lifestyles (solitary and social) and come in all sizes.

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Unfortunately, honey bee and some native bee populations in the United States have been declining at alarming rates over the past six years, as evidenced by several national and local surveys. Without the pollination provided by honey bees and other bee species, many foods we enjoy could become more expensive or more difficult to obtain. Thus it is important to understand the biology and needs of these organisms on which so much of our bounty is dependent.

Visitors will be able to see a huge Agapostemon bee, visit a live observation hive, see a live mason bee nest, feel a child-sized bumblebee, feed and care for a child-sized bee pupa and larva, try on beekeeping gear, study real bee specimens, find out simple and fun things one can do to help bees, and more!

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The World of Bees has a few take home messages:

  • Bees are familiar representatives of insects, the dominant group of animals on Earth.  With 20,000 species, bees are diverse!
  • Bees are an ancient group of creatures with various life histories, behaviors, ecological roles, shapes, colors and sizes. They have been around for millions of years!
  • Bees are arguably our most valuable insects, responsible for pollinating many of our crops and making products we rely on and use every day.
  • Honeybees and native bees are facing population declines due to known and unknown environmental factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use and disease.
  • Bees are easy to keep on your own property or attract to your own garden and you can easily contribute to their preservation.

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For more information, please visit the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum at http://www.hhnaturemuseum.org/