This past summer, six Horry County teens and pre-teens took an active role in halting the nationwide rapid decline of the honeybee in American agriculture. While 4-H, a global network of young people, teens and preteens. committed to “making the best better”, is better known for raising chickens, calves and other livestock, last summer this cohort of six raised bees.
Miracle Lewis, Cooperative Extension Agent, coordinator of 4-H saw the project and wanted to offer it here in Horry County. She contacted Patrick Lewis of Blackwater Beekeepers to act as the group’s sponsor and promoted it throughout Horry County. Lewis says, “We created social media campaigns and notified all existing 4-H members as well as our stakeholders of the project. Youth began showing interest immediately. Only two of the youth enrolled were existing 4-H members.”
Patrick Elvis of Blackwater Beekeepers (Blackwaterbeekeepers.org) expressed interest in agreed to be the 4-H volunteer adult leader of the club, officially known as the State 4-H Pollinator Project. His job was to assist the six in successfully nurturing their hives through a tough first summer and into winter hibernation. Elvis and the Blackwater Beekeepers did much more than that. They obtained the “starter” bees for the each member of the group, helped each one build the necessary frames for a hive and gave them some starter beekeeping equipment, including protective gloves and veil. He also helped arrange speakers for the monthly meetings to help the young beekeepers learn how to best care for the bees, what to look for in cases of infestations and other things that would weaken the bees, and more. One speaker addressed the topic of what plants to grow (in our area) to attract and feed bees.
Lewis notes, “The parents of the youth all seemed interested in raising bees (in their backyards), just as much as the youth were.”
She noted that although honey cannot be harvested during the first year of a hive, Horry’s 4-Hers all expressed interest in selling their honey one day, when they do have enough to harvest.
One of the six, Nicholas Heniford, a senior at Loris High school, was already an experienced beekeeper. He harvested 65 pounds of honey this past summer from his established hives. “We bottled it for friends and relatives,” he says. There is never any trouble getting rid of honey once hives are established. Lewis says, “ The benefits of local honey are endless. Honey is loaded full of antioxidants and phytonutrients. It helps to ease seasonal allergies, can be used as a salve, a cough suppressant, and even a digestive aid. “
Lewis notes that the participants were enrolled by February. Each member received a package of bees in April. Each of the youth cared for their bees from April- August for the purposes of the project and they continue to care for them, now that the project has ended. In fact, several of the participants, including Nicholas, spoke with the Sun News about their work and all of them agreed that they wanted to keep going with the project, some even planning to add hives next spring.
Hives can be tucked into small yards, even placed in urban environments, Check with Blackwater Beekepers to find out what you need and check county and local POA restrictions before ordering bees.
Layla VanAermen, a ten year old home-schooled Horry county student says, the hardest thing about keeping bees is “making sure the hives are healthy.”
Bee hives need to be checked for mites and parasite and they need to be fed (with sugar water) when there is not enough nectar available due to weather (during fall and winter) and in extreme heat during the summer. There is no honey harvest in the first year of working with a hive because the bees need to eat that honey during their first winter.
Peter Pendleton, a fifteen year old home-schooled student from Gallivants Ferry notes that caring for bees means checking the hives regularly, but only once or twice a week so as not to overly disturb the insects. He described the process of putting a few bees in a jar to check for mites or parasites. Pendleton credits a class he took from Blackwater Beekeepers as being excellent for teaching him what he needed to know about bees.
Elvis says that if the program continues he will be happy to continue to serve as the group’s adult sponsor the group because he feels it is important for young people to learn to respect this hard working little insect.
Lewis agrees and adds, “The bees and other pollinators are a benefit to our world as they pollinate the crops we rely on to survive. They make our landscapes beautiful, provide us with a natural sugar, and entertain everyone who decides to take a closer look at them. Honeybees are fascinating and it’s so very important that we teach out youth how to respect and care for them.”