CLEMSON – South Carolina youth have an opportunity to take part in a groundbreaking project that could help them become more proficient in science, technology, engineering and math.

Registration for the honey bee project, one component of the South Carolina 4-H pollinator program, is open until Feb. 2. This project engages youth, 5-18 years old, in the role of beekeeping, learning the basics of entomology and gaining an appreciation for the roles of pollinators. Ashley Burns, Clemson 4-H youth development assistant director, said the program is open to all South Carolina youth.

“This is a great way to teach youth about science, technology, engineering and math, as well as conservation of our natural resources and the importance to agriculture,” Burns said. “Skills and knowledge youth learn by participating in this project will enhance what they learn in the classroom and help them make real-world contributions.”

Youth participating in the project will learn how to set goals and determine how to achieve these goals, document skill development and learning experiences, participate in community educational and service activities and become good environmental stewards as well as learn skills in keeping records, financial management and communication. Participants will be provided a record book and a few supplementary materials to help get them started. They will be responsible for managing a colony of bees and recording their efforts. Record books have been designed specifically for each age division. At the end of the project, youth will submit their record book for judging at the county level. Winning record books in the junior and senior age divisions will advance to the regional and state levels for judging.

Raising honey bees as part of the South Carolina 4-H Pollinator Program is a family affair for John, Wilson, Catherine and Mary Rae Oxner of Leesville. Wilson and Mary Rae are some of the first participants in the South Carolina 4-H Pollinator Program.

Raising honey bees as part of the South Carolina 4-H Pollinator Program is a family affair for John, Wilson, Catherine and Mary Rae Oxner of Leesville. Wilson and Mary Rae are some of the first participants in the South Carolina 4-H Pollinator Program.
Image Credit: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture

Youth do not have to own their own bees to participate in the project, Burns said. They simply need to be responsible for managing a colony of bees and recording their efforts. This means youth participating in the project need access to beekeeping equipment, a colony of bees to work with and an experienced beekeeper to help them. To find an experienced beekeeper, Burns suggests contacting the local beekeepers’ association or County Extension Office.

Cost for the project is $40 for 4-H members and $50 for non-members. To register, go to http://www.clemson.edu/extension/4hbee.html by Feb. 2.

The 4-H pollinator program began in 2017. South Carolina youth who participated in the honey bee project said they learned a lot about beekeeping, the basics of entomology and about pollinators.

“The bees come in boxes, and you have to go through a whole process to get them in the hive,” said Wilson Oxner, 9, of Leesville. “Then you have to feed them sugar water every day so they can build a comb. You have to keep track of how they’re building the comb. You also have to make sure the queen is present because in the early stages of a hive, if the queen isn’t there, the hive dies.”

Wilson and his sister, Mary Rae Oxner, attend Gilbert Elementary School. They started the project with six hives in the back of their parents’ property.

Lilly Tidwell is a 4-Her from Central who participated in the project. To help care for her bees, Lilly learned about the different tools for beekeeping. In addition to the bee brush, she also learned how to use a hive tool to separate the bees, move frames and how to use a smoker to calm the bees.

Lilly Tidwell explains the different tools used in beekeeping. Lilly is one of the first participants in the South Carolina 4-H Pollinator Program.

Lilly Tidwell explains the different tools used in beekeeping. Lilly is one of the first participants in the South Carolina 4-H pollinator program.
Image Credit: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture

“We have a special material that is earth-safe that we put in the smoker,” Lilly said. “Then we use a lighter to make it smoke. This calms them down.”

Beekeeping is growing rapidly  in popularity as a hobby and, for some people, a vocation. Bees produce honey and beeswax. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), bees are responsible for pollinating up to 70 percent of the agricultural crops in America. Honey bee colonies for operations of five or more colonies totaled 2.62 million colonies.

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