Did you know there are more than 300 natural varieties of honey in the United States and more than 3,000 in the world. Suffice it to say, there is honey for every occasion, according to Collin College student Caroline Adams, who was named the 2013 American Honey Queen.
Adams, an American Sign Language student who maintains three beehives, discusses what interests her about the beekeeping industry to the importance of the creatures in this Q&A.
How did you get involved in beekeeping? What do you love most about bees and the beekeeping industry?
I began beekeeping seven years ago through the Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Association. It has been incredible to work hands-on with such vitally important creatures. Honey bees pollinate more than 90 different food crops and nearly 1/3 of all the food in our diet. Honey bee pollination is worth $19.2 billion to our national economy. As a beekeeper, it is extremely rewarding to be involved in such an important industry and to work with these fascinating insects.
You maintain three beehives. What is this experience like?
Raising honey bees is unlike any other experience. Spending time working with and observing bees is very rewarding. I keep honey bees as a personal project, utilizing the pollination and honey they provide. However, everyone can lend a helping hand to the honey bees. A great way to help is to plant herbs such as basil and rosemary. They will prove useful to you and the bees. Another easy way to help the honey bees is to support beekeepers by buying local honey. Check out your local farmer’s market or health food store to find your favorite variety. With more than 300 natural varieties of honey in the United States and more than 3,000 in the world, there is a honey for every occasion.
What goes into maintaining a beehive?
Beekeeping can be done on all levels, from small-scale to commercial. Some beekeepers even load their hives on the back of semi-trucks and take them across the nation – following the seasons – to pollinate crops. As a small-scale beekeeper, I maintain my colonies for fun. Generally, colonies should be inspected every week to 10 days in the peak season of early spring to mid-summer. During inspection, I check the health of the queen, the food supply in the colony and overall hive health. This is an easy process and requires relatively little time. Over the last several years, the demographics of beekeeping have changed. More and more young people have become beekeepers, and it has become very popular in urban areas, from small backyards to high-rise rooftops. To find a local beekeeping association near you, visit cchba.org; tvbees.org or metrobeekeepers.net.
How many times have you been stung by a bee?
I have been stung several times! However, considering there are generally between 40,000 and 60,000 bees in the average hive and that I have worked in close proximity to them for several years, this shows how gentle honey bees really are. Unlike other stinging insects, honey bees can only sting once, then they die. As a result, a bee will only sting if she feels threatened or in attempt to protect her hive.
When you were named American Honey Queen, what was this experience like? What are you looking forward to the most as the 2013 American Honey Queen?
I was crowned 2013 American Honey Queen at a national beekeeping conference. The candidates were judged on their presentation abilities, professionalism and knowledge of the beekeeping industry. As an official spokesperson for the American Beekeeping Federation, I am excited to share the vital importance of honey bee pollination, the versatility of honey and the role of the beekeeping industry with audiences of all ages around the nation. For more information about honey bees and the Honey Queen Program, visit Facebook.com/AmericanHoneyQueenProgram; Abfnet.org; and Buzzingacrossamerica.com.
If you had to narrow it down to one, what is the craziest bee story you have?
The most incredible bee story I have heard is that of the Pygmy honey hunters in Africa who willingly climb hundreds of feet into trees without protective equipment to harvest the golden honey the bees have produced. A single worker bee will only produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her entire life. Throughout history people around the world have seen the immense value of honey, and it has long been treasured for its many uses in cooking, skin care and medicinal purposes!
What do you love most about Collin College and the American Sign Language program?
I appreciate the support I have received while at Collin College. The faculty and staff have gone out of their way to make my experience the best it can possibly be. It is a privilege to be part of such a strong and respected school. Being involved in the American Sign Language department has been a wonderful experience. This program has changed my life and has been influential in inspiring me to pursue a career as a sign language interpreter. As 2013 American Honey Queen, I am excited to use what I have learned to reach Deaf schools and groups across the nation with the importance of honey bees. It is also incredible to be involved in a school that has such a proven and impressive history. My experiences at Collin College have been extremely beneficial and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this network!