Friday, December 7, 2012

Missouri Beekeeping with Erin Mullins

Today we welcome Erin Mullins. Erin is a Missouri girl who discovered the joy of beekeeping!

Hello, my name is Erin Mullins and I’m from the northwest corner of Missouri. I am 19 years old attending college to become a Nurse. I still live at home with my parents on our farm of 10 acres nestled along a creek and surrounded on 3 sides by timber.My whole life we have had animals of all kinds on our farm such as goats, emus, buffalo, hedgehogs and now more recently we’ve added bees to that list. My dad has always been interested in animals that are not so domestic and has fortunately passed that gene down to me.

Every year in January and February the local technical school offers Personal Enrichment classes for people of every age to learn about all sorts of different things. They offer classes about computers, dog obedience, flying an airplane and many more. 3 years ago I found myself going to the class they offered for beginning beekeepers. Before that class the only things I knew about bees in general were that they made honey and they stung. My cousins from Iowa had hives but I had never been out to see them up close.

So off I go notebook in hand to learn about bees. When I showed up I realize that I’m the youngest person there by about 20 years and one of only a few women. I started to think maybe I was a little out of place. The class is taught by a group of about 5-6 men from a newly founded Northwest Missouri Bee Busters who have beekeeping experience ranging from about 5 years all the way up to 30+ years. By the end of the class I learned about the different parts of a hive, diseases a bee can get, and how to harvest your honey, but most importantly a hunger to learn more. I was absolutely fascinated. Lucky for me they offered another class in February that was more advanced and went into greater detail on beekeeping.

By March of that same year I got my first 3 hives of bees. Now something you need to know is that when you buy bees you buy a “package” or box of bees it exactly that, a box that contains 1 queen and about 10,000 worker bees. It’s very intimidating when you’re riding in a car for 2 hours and a few bees escape from those boxes and are flying around in the car with you. The queen comes separately in a little tiny box, inside the bigger box, with a piece of hard candy or a cork on the bottom. The purpose the queen is separated is because if you were to release her with the other bees she would just fly off because she has not become acquainted with the other bees. So you hang her and let the bees eat the cork out and get use to her as their queen. Then for the next 5-6 months during the spring and summer the bees work to fill boxes on top of their hives called supers with beautiful golden honey. We only take the supers we put on the hives and that the bees fill so that they can have a sufficient food supply to last them through winter.

This is what you get when you order a package or box of bees.
The first year I harvested my honey I entered it at the Missouri State Fair in the FFA division. I sent a quart jar to Sedalia not knowing exactly how they judged it or if my honey was even worth sending. I don’t know if it was beginners luck or what I had was truly gold, pun intended, because I ended up receiving Reserve Champion. This past year I sent my honey again and didn’t get grand or reserve but still received a gold ribbon which I’m very proud of.

My Reserve Champion Honey from the Missouri State Fair FFA division.
Today I am a member and amateur web designer for the Northwest Missouri Bee Busters. We meet once a month and have discussions on honey prices and diseases we should check for but mostly it’s just a place for people to ask questions and get every ones opinions on the matter. It’s been said that if you ask 2 beekeepers how to do one thing you’ll end up getting 3 different answers. But that’s the great thing about beekeeping is that someone is always there with advice and information. Then basically you just have to try the different things out on your own until you figure out what works best for your operation. As a club we put on the beekeeping classes at the tech school, set up a booth at the American Royal in Kansas City, MO for the school tours, and do other talks about bees around the community.

This is the booth our club had at the American Royal in Kansas City for the school tours.
We had honey sticks for the kids and an observation hive with live bees.
I am also a member of the Missouri State Beekeeping association who meet twice a year. At those meetings they bring in scientists, professors, and experienced beekeepers to give lectures on all sorts of beekeeping related matters. It’s a great place to learn and meet some very interesting people. This past year I had the privilege of getting to know the Missouri State Honey queen. I traveled with her and her mom to St. Louis for one of the state meetings and got to see her at work. It really sparked an interest with me. I’m hoping that next year I will be able to run for the queen position. They have the opportunity to promote beekeeping and agriculture in general to kids and adults all across Missouri and even Kansas.

Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby to have that comes with many great benefits. Not only do you have the opportunity to sell your honey, bees are very beneficial to agriculture. According to The New Agriculturalists in the United States alone bee pollination is valued at several billion dollars. Bees pollinate about 1/6th of the world’s flowering plants and over 400 agricultural species. So I strongly encourage people to get into beekeeping as a hobby because what you are doing just by keeping bees, you’re also helping American agriculture an out. Plus nothing tastes better or is better for you than fresh honey right from your backyard.

For more info about beekeeping here are a few websites you can go to: – My local clubs website. – The Missouri State Website – The National Honey Board –The American Beekeeping Federation

Thanks Erin for the great feature. You can follow Erin on her personal blog: Diaries from the Dirt Road.

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