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Sherburne County 4-H'er works to save the bee population

Learning. Growing. Collecting. Saving a species.

We have a problem in Minnesota. Bees and other pollinators are disappearing. The cause is puzzling for researchers, but it is clear that something has to be done. We must save the bees. The Sherburne County 4-H Federation took matters into their own hands by applying for a Helping Hands Grant from the Minnesota 4-H Foundation. For their project, they provided education about honeybees and pollination to the youth and community members of Sherburne County by setting up beehives and harvesting honey.

Bees working hard to make honey 
There were several major goals of the project, the first being to promote beekeeping and increase the awareness of the honeybee’s role in the food supply and agriculture. Education was to be done through classes and summer camps in partnership with Sherburne County Master Gardeners. A personal goal for Sherburne County 4-H’er Emmalee, the 4-H’er who led this project, was to learn new information about keeping the bee population up.

Emmalee and her adult mentor, Joe Rand, started out with two brood boxes of bees, and ended up having four hives. They learned how to take care of the bees by reading The Backyard Beekeeper. "We purchased supplies for 4 hives. 3 were located at the Sherburne County History Center and 1 at Emmalee’s house," said Joe

One of the Bee Hives 
Within two weeks a queen hatched. Although the project started out well, there was a major challenge along the way. "My queen [of the hive] either died or was killed," recalled Emmalee. "For about a period of a month, the beehive had no queen." After one month, she got things figured out and honey could be made again. "We had to re-queen the hives a couple times, which was a huge learning curve," added Joe.

In September of 2016, they harvested 30 pounds of honey. The project was considered a success. "We definitely achieved our goals! The kids had a blast doing hive inspections and harvesting honey! I also learned a ton about bee keeping myself! " said Joe.

The goal of educating the public about bees was achieved as well. "In summer and then to end of fall, we had three different workshops that 4-H members from Sherburne were able to come and see the hives and then also were able to see us extracting the honey. We told them how we took care of the hives. There was a lot of interest and I think people learned a lot about the bees," Emmalee said.

"My favorite part was being getting learn so many new things about bees. They really are amazing creatures and don’t get much credit for all they do to help humans!" Emmalee said.
What will happen next with the project depends on how well the bees survive the Minnesota winter. Emmalee would like to continue the project next year and is very grateful for her experience this past summer.

Emmalee proudly holds part of a bee hive
When asked why youth should join 4-H, Emmalee had the following response: "A project like this one really helps you get experience in many areas of life. Being able to show animals, or general projects, and being able to tell and teach people about what you have learned is such a great experience and I wish all youth would be able to have the opportunity to be in 4-H!"

Each spring the Minnesota 4-H Foundation distributes grants to 4-H clubs that engage youth in building critical life skills. We feature one grantee every month to celebrate wonderful ways Minnesota 4-H'ers are living out the 4-H Pledge. Click here to read about other grant recipients.

Did you know that these experiences in 4-H happens because of the generosity of donors like you? What sort of impact could your support have on youth who want to save a species? Your gift could empower Minnesota youth to lead and succeed. They’re just waiting on you. Please give today.

By Laura Wyatt
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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