Beekeeper of the Month
This month our featured beekeeper of the month is Levi Bernhard. He is one of the IHPA sponsored beginning beekeepers. He sent an excellent story as follows.
My name is Levi Bernhard, and I am very honored to be the “Beekeeper of the Month” in the Buzz! My parents are Steve and Dawn and I have a little sister, Hanna. We live on a farm near Algona and we raise corn, beans, alfalfa and sheep. When I started keeping bees, you would have thougt that my whole family had received the 2007 Youth Beekeepers Scholarship, not just me. They were really that excited about bees and beekeeping.
I attend Seton Middle School and I am in the 7th grade. Band, Jazz band, piano, Quiz Bowl and the Algona Public Library Teen Advisory Board are a few of my favorite activities. My hobbies include beekeeping (but of course!), reading, writing, chalk drawing, playing piano and clarinet, jumping on a trampoline and swinging.
I am very active in 4-H and my projects include entomology/beekeeping, market lambs, broilers, science, horticulture and photography. I am a member of the Prarie 4-H Club and currently serve as the club secretary. Ricochet, a 4-H leadership club for 7th-9th graders, is another of my 4-H activities.
I have many plans for my life after high school, beginning with attending college and perhaps becoming a psychiatrist.
Levi Bernhard examines a frame of bees. He is finding beekeeping to be very interesting and exciting
Pat Ennis is my mentor and he has been a great teacher, helper and friend! He has taught me (and my family) so much about beekeeping and honey! He is very encouraging, not only with my bees but also my activities – he made certain I knew about all the State Fair opportunities for youth beekeepers, invited me to work in the Honey booth and made sure I knew about the Honey Producers Convention and activities for youth. Peggy Ennis gave me the recipe for Honey Scotcheroos that I entered at the Convention. I learned a lot about keeping bees, so much that it would probably take a whole book to fill! But, I will give you a general idea: I learned how to start a smoker, extract honey and general beekeeping practices. I was inspired to begin beekeeping when I examined the Iowa Honey Producers booth at the Clay County Fair and read about the IHPA Scholarship. There are a lot of places where I took my training, but I spent most of my learning time either at Pat’s or my own house. I learned most of my beekeeping techniques from Pat.
I had a great time working at the IHPA booth for one shift on August 7th this year. I enjoyed running the cash register and I liked being able to work the same shift as Pat. I entered the youth beekeeping photography contest at the State Fair, too. Next year, I want to enter the whole youth bee category, including candles!
I have some really unusual bees – they sometimes do really strange things! One time, for example, when a friend was visiting and I was showing him my hives, my bees started dive-bombing us (they had never acted like that before!) and one even managed to sting my friend’s baseball cap! Pat explained it was probably just a bee who was mad at the whole world.
During the summer, one of my hives swarmed. Fortunately, they were in a nearby tree. Unfortunately, they were pretty high up in the tree – higher that our ladder would reach. So, being farmers and thinkers, my Dad and I made a plan that included putting me in the loader bucket of our tractor and lifting the loader and me into the tree – to reach the bees! It worked and I managed to cut the limb so we could capture the warm. But, I have to say, those bees were not at all happy to be pursued, sawed down and captured! They were flying everywhere and Hannah, who was supposed to be our photographer, finally ran to the house for refuge! Boy was I glad to have on my bee suit and be completely taped up!
Another funny story is when I put out a bee bath – which is really a bird bath but I put it out for my bees to have another water source. It worked really great and I even got some neat bee photos from it. Watching my bees has been fun for my entire family.
Beekeeping has been very exciting for me and seems to spark interest in those around me! When I got my first packages of bees last spring, our local newspaper came out and did a story including photos. During the county fair, I was interviewed on the radio about my bees and the scholarship program. Last year, I prepared and presented an educational presentation called “In The Bee-ginning” – it was about bees. The Algona Morning Kiwanis group and the Algona Public Library invited me to make this presentation and it was selected to go to the State Fair. When I gave “In The Bee-ginning” at 4-H Communications Day and at the State Fair, there were many questions about keeping bees.
Levi stands next to his hive stacked with honey supers which appears to have grown taller than him.
I plan to continue beekeeping for a very long time! I also plan to either expand my hives when the spring comes and/or to replace either of my two hives if I lose them during the winter months. I really enjoy all the “bee people” I have met at Convention, beekeeping school and the Clay County and Iowa State Fairs. My family has enjoyed all the honey my bees produced this first year – my “good” hive made almost 150 pounds of honey! Honey sales in my community have been good and lots of family, friends and teachers received Levi Bernhard’s Golden Harvest Honey for Christmas. One of my friends, Zachariah Hicks, got interested in bees and he is one of this year’s Youth Beekeeping Scholarship winners. Maybe we will be able to form a Youth Beekeepers Club in Algona!
I am looking forward to spring and seeing how my bees came through this cold Iowa winter!
Submitted by Ron Wehr