With a passion for bees and a desire to educate youth about their impact on the global food chain, Bill Wickerham, wildlife specialist for Adams County Soil and Water Conservation District, set out to create a program that would do just that. At his urging, the Adams County Beekeepers Association (ACBA) has partnered with the Adams County Farm Bureau to offer county youth the opportunity to learn the art of beekeeping through a Youth Beginner Beekeeping Scholarship.
About the Beginner Beekeeping Scholarship
“The scholarship is available to youths who are a resident of the county, enrolled in school and new to beekeeping,” Wickerham says. “One of every three bites of food in the United States depends on honey bees and other pollinators. Unfortunately, bee populations nationwide have declined over the last several years.”
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The scholarship program hopes to play a role in combating population decrease, particularly in Ohio’s own backyard. “Our goals are to increase the bee population in our county, educate youth on the art of beekeeping and promote a better understanding of the value of honey bees to our environment and the food chain,” Wickerham says.
When a student receives the beekeeping scholarship, they receive a one-year membership to the Adams County Beekeepers Association, a beginning beekeeper guidebook, a set of woodenware for the beehive, a nucleus of bees, beekeeping gear and mentorship from a long-standing ACBA member.
“The mentor is truly the backbone of the program,” Wickerham says. “They guide the recipients through every step of the process. They provide hands-on instruction and guidance that they’ve acquired from years of practical experience.”
Mentors help the students prepare and set up their equipment, select the best site for the hive and serve as a direct contact for students throughout the year in case any problems, questions or concerns arise.
“They remove a great deal of the learning curve that is discouraging to many new beekeepers,” Wickerham says.
Meet a Young Ohio Beekeeper
Joshua Burns, now a senior at North Adams High School, was a 2016 recipient of the Youth Beginner Beekeeping Scholarship. Burns says he always had an interest in beekeeping, and when his mother spotted the scholarship in the local newspaper, he jumped at the opportunity to apply.
Although Burns started with one scholarship hive, he’s now the proud owner of three. He credits his success to his mentor, Terry Robinson.
“The most important part of the scholarship program is the mentor,” Burns says. “Mine took time to show me how to take care of my bees, and I feel like I wouldn’t be a successful beekeeper without him.”
Robinson has been keeping bees for 12 years and enjoys serving as a mentor in the scholarship program. He believes the program provides an incredible opportunity to teach kids about the importance of pollination.
“If it weren’t for bees, we wouldn’t have a lot of vegetables,” Robinson says. “It’s important for kids to learn what these bees do for us.”
While Robinson enjoys the program’s educational benefits, he says his favorite part of being a mentor is watching the scholarship recipients develop a love for beekeeping.
“They learn how to build the hardware, see the difference between a worker bee and drone bee, and watch the hive grow and progress,” Robinson says.
Robinson says beekeeping teaches children patience and helps instill in them a strong work ethic, two traits that will serve them well throughout the rest of their lives.
“And at the end, the reward for all their hard work is the honey harvest,” Robinson says.