Duane Marski has seen bees up close from behind the lens of a camera and witnessed things most have not.
He's seen bees carrying drops of water on their backs that are almost half as large as they are. He knows they then bring the water to the warmest area of the hive and beat their wings fast to break up the ball of water and cool the hive.
If you goWhat: Kline Creek Farm's National Honey Bee Day celebration
When: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18
Where: Kline Creek Farm, 1N600 County Farm Road, West Chicago
Info: (630) 876-5900
And that's not all he knows. Ask the photographer and volunteer beekeeper about the insects, and he'll list off facts about their length, speed of flight, their anatomy, and he'll go into detail about the process of making honey.
He knows, for example, that bees recognize faces and can be trained to go left and right. He knows they can fly 15 mph for up to four miles. And he knows they orient themselves to the sun and keep an internal clock that tells them how the sun is moving so they're back to the hive in time.
"I call them Swiss Army insects," Marski said.
The free event will include Marski and others teaching attendees about bees, pollination and how the insects affect agricultural production, and will give attendees the opportunity to taste a variety of honeys and watch candle-making demonstrations, a process that involves taking damaged honey and heating it so that the wax floats to the top and can be taken out and put into candle molds.
Visitors also are invited to explore the farm's honey house to learn how bees make honey, and they can see a new garden with plants attractive to pollinators.
Kline Creek Farm houses 24 bee hives in two bee yards, and Marski estimates the population at roughy 1 million bees collectively.
"We have probably the only beekeeping center in the state of Illinois," he said. "The apiaries we have here were founded as an adjunct to the 1890s living history farm."
The farm also has Meet the Beekeeper events from 1:30 to 3:30 every Sunday and teaches courses for beginning beekeepers in the winter months.
As a volunteer beekeeper, Marski is involved in the honey-making process and builds the honey frames that are later harvested, checks for diseases in the hive and treats them and monitors the health of the queen bee.
Marski hopes to give attendees a greater understanding of the value of bees and other insects, who pollinate the basic foods we eat -- cherries, apples and peaches, to name a few.
"As much as 25 percent of the foods we eat wouldn't exist without the pollination efforts of bees, wasps and other insects, and birds," Marski said. "These insects and birds make possible most of the foods that we like to eat, and without them, we simply wouldn't have those foods."
And that's important for people to learn, Marski said, because the growing use of pesticides has had a very adverse effect on the health of hives.
If we let the bees die, we'll have a lot of trouble feeding ourselves, he said.
"It's really a treasure, in a way, that nobody knows about," Marski said. "We can't replace the honey bee."