Earlier this summer, members of the McCreary County 4-H Bee Club tasted sweet success as they robbed their first bee hive, extracted the tasty honey, and began processing it for jars.
The club, with six members ranging in age from 12 to 16 years old, is under the direction of McCreary County Cooperative Extension Agent Greg Whitis. With additional help from the Big South Fork Beekeepers, the young beekeepers established two hives earlier this spring in Smithtown. Before robbing their own hives, the students practiced harvesting honey using Whitis’ personal hives. Club members also had opportunities to tackle all aspects of beekeeping.
Whitis formed the club last fall when several local students expressed interest in beekeeping. Whitis purchased hives, supplies, and protective suits with $1,000 from the PRIDE Environmental Education Grant program and $500 from the 4-H Ag Achievers Grant Program. The bees, valued at approximately $300, were donated by Grow Appalachia.
“By joining the 4-H Bee Club, students can figure out if they are serious enough to invest in their own hive, which can cost $500 or $600,” Whitis explained. “For students who go through this program and decide they want to start hives at home, my goal is to help reduce their start-up cost by arranging for local beekeepers to donate their first bees.”
Whitis connects many school related aspects, including science, math and critical thinking, to the art of beekeeping.
“When they begin selling their honey, we will work on marketing skills,” Whitis remarked. “I think some of them will want to design their own labels, too, because these kids are very artistic. We will work on accounting skills when they start using the club’s money to buy supplies.”
The club’s goal is to fund itself through honey sales. Whitis expects the hives to start producing enough honey to sell regularly by next spring.
“Greg has come up with several exciting projects with his PRIDE grants over the years, such as his annual environmental education camp at Feltner, and we always enjoy working with his students,” remarked Eastern Kentucky PRIDE President/CEO Tammie Wilson who was on hand to observe the McCreary County youth as they robbed their hives. “Beekeeping is growing in popularity, and bees are so important to a healthy environment, so it is a great idea to give students a chance to develop these skills.”
McCreary County students who want to join the 4-H Bee Club, or community members who want to learn how to become beekeepers, should visit or call Whitis at the McCreary County Cooperative Extension Office at 606-376-2524.