A honey of a 4-H projectWith the help of the North East Beekeepers Association, the Carlton County 4-H project began in January.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
This summer’s cold and rainy weather may have affected their honey production, but it hasn’t put a damper on the Carlton County 4-H group’s enthusiasm for their new beekeeping project.
With the help of the North East Beekeepers Association, the Carlton County 4-H project began in January after Carol Waldorf, a 4-H volunteer and mentor, had spent just a year keeping bees as a member of the North East Beekeepers Association. Waldorf found beekeeping costly and overwhelming, but an interesting project she wanted to share with her 4-Hers.
The bees needed to be ordered during the winter, and the packages started to arrive in early April. During this time, the families learned about beekeeping through watching videos and learning “bee talk,” or beekeepers’ lingo.
The purpose of the project is to “let the kids explore ideas ... to give them the opportunity to explore beekeeping,” Waldorf said. Unlike other 4-H projects, beekeeping is not a competitive project, but Waldorf said it is a good opportunity for the children to learn positive self-esteem.
The North East Beekeepers Association has been a big help this year with members donating hives, frames, tools and money to the families participating in the project.
“This year, each 4-Her has their own hive and a complete set of hive tools to use, thanks to the North East Beekeepers Association ... [they] are always there for guidance and support to youth and adults,” said 4-H volunteer and mentor Leslie Chaplin.
There are currently three active families keeping bees, and another preparing to take on the project next year.
“We see this project as being a total family affair,” Chaplin said. “The whole family is involved in this project to learn together.”
The families keep the bees at their own homes. Once a week, Waldorf, Chaplin and the families take a field trip to each home for a hive check.
“At that time, the hive is inspected to keep everything going smoothly,” Chaplin said. “Every hive is unique and has different situations, and everyone is learning together.”
This summer’s weather has not been ideal for the beekeeping project.
“The rain and cold has affected the honey and wax production,” Chaplin said. “We had to feed sugar syrup during the cold spell [because the bees were unable to pollenate as usual].”
But Waldorf still finds the project a success.
“It’s all about learning ... no matter what the weather, you have to learn about the bees,” she said.
Waldorf has been surprised by the 4-Hers’ response to beekeeping. For so many families to join during the first year, “you’re doing pretty good,” she noted.
“It’s amazing to see the kids’ interest,” Waldorf said.
Thirteen-year-old Max Kenney of Sturgeon Lake is part of the project and finds beekeeping fascinating.
“It is rewarding to open up my hive and see [it] filling up with honey,” Kenney said. “I can’t wait to harvest my liquid gold in August.”
Like fellow participators, Kenney is able to use the donated equipment for two years, and already plans to add another hive to his yard next year.
“Beekeeping is an addicting hobby that I want to do for many years to come,” he said. “I think it is amazing to watch my bees collect pollen in my yard and stuff it into the pockets in their back legs. You can see their huge legs as they fly back to deliver the pollen to my hive.”
Of course, beekeeping can be dangerous if the right precautions and education aren’t taken. Participants cannot be allergic to bee stings.
“At our first meeting I asked everyone, ‘Have you been stung?’” Waldorf said.