By KELBY WINGERT
Britta McCollum wishes she had some big, interesting story about how she first got interested in beekeeping, but she doesn’t, she told a crowd at The Messenger’s Home, Garden and Lifestyle Show at Iowa Central’s East Campus earlier this month.
The 15-year-old freshman at Fort Dodge Senior High got her start in beekeeping when a friend of her mother’s suggested she apply for a scholarship from the Iowa Honey Producers Association.
The IHPA’s youth scholarship program is open to teens ages 13 to 16 who are new to beekeeping, and it gives the selected teens the tools to start beekeeping, including hive materials, classes and a local mentor to help them.
“In return, the scholarship recipient is asked to volunteer at different events throughout the year, such as the Iowa State Fair,” McCollum said. “It’s a great experience and a great way to get into beekeeping.”
McCollum started her hives last year, and will be expanding and adding more hives in her back yard this spring.
“Most scholarship recipients start a lifelong activity because bees are so addicting,” she said.
The focus of McCollum’s presentation at the Home, Garden and Lifestyle Show was things one should know before becoming a beekeeper.
Her first lesson was warning folks against thinking they can just decide one day in spring or summer to start keeping bees – it takes months of planning, McCollum said, months of buying and assembling equipment and preparing hives for their future occupants. Bees should be ordered before March to ensure their arrival before the season starts.
“All that time gets you prepared,” she said.
She recommends taking beekeeping classes, either in person or online.
“In beekeeping classes, you will learn about beekeeping equipment, diseases, parasites, how to extract honey … and pretty much all the basics to get started,” McCollum said. “Classes are a great way to meet other beekeepers and ask experienced beekeepers questions – beekeepers love talking about bees.”
McCollum also recommends books and hands-on experience to help learning. Finding a beekeeping mentor to help is also invaluable.
“The beekeeping community is full of wonderful people who love to teach people about bees,” she said.
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