Emily Campbell is not your average 20 year old college woman. She can be described as “ambitious, organized, and quirky.” She keeps three bee hives on her property. As the current American Honey Princess, she travels around the United States to represent the honey and bee keeping industry. Emily explains: “Bee keeping is a very niche industry whereas the public doesn’t get to see a lot of the behind the scenes work. Bees are in trouble now, and require help from everybody. Bees do things for every single one of us. It’s time we reciprocate the favor and do something for bees as well.
The basic things everyone can do are plant local floral sources; for example, plant wild flowers, gardens, and bee friendly flowers. You can find bee friendly flowers by asking at your local garden center, or by using Google. Other ways you can help with the bee industry, is by buying local honey, to support the beekeepers. We [the US beekeepers] are having problems with adulterated honey in China, India, and Argentina since it’s partially honey filled with corn syrup. By supporting local bee keepers it will increase their business, which allows them to expand.”
Emily shared how she became an American Honey Princess, “It was very much like a job interview that started in North Central Minnesota. The “Honey Queen” is the first title and job I had. I am a first generation beekeeper and joined the club to learn about beekeeping and helped the current “Honey Queen” at the time. This qualified me to participate in the Minnesota Honey Queen program to compete for that title.
[To apply for the title] we had to give marketing presentations, impromptu speeches, write an essay on something honey related, and we were tested on our knowledge of honey bees as well as our public speaking abilities. It’s very much like a job interview, and not a pageant.
I decided to go to [The University of] Minnesota for experience, networking, and for the title. It qualified me for national level, which is similar to state level; but at a higher and more advanced degree. The catch is that there is no idea who the judges are. There are several thousands of people there, and our job is to talk to them and find out where judges are and make sure we get good national exposure at the national convention.”
After volunteering for a year as a Honey Queen in North Central Minnesota, Emily became the Honey Queen, and then was promoted to her position now as the American Honey Princess.
Emily discussed her job, “It’s really about stressing the importance of honey bees in everyone’s lives. Honey bee pollination is responsible for making about 1/3 of our food supply. In more relatable terms it’s like skipping lunch every day, we are in a 20 billion dollar a year agricultural industry and it’s huge for our economy and our crops to really rely on bee keepers to get the high yields that they have.”
Emily’s interest in the bee industry started at age 12 when she wanted to do an entomology project. Emily explained, “Honey bees are disappearing and having a concerningly huge impact on how we live. I started with research projects and got more and more interested. By my junior year in high school, I wanted to become a bee keeper and was the first generation to do so in my family. I assisted the north Minnesota bee keepers and it took off from there. The demographics of beekeeping is that it hasn’t been more diverse than it is now. In the past, the stereotypical bee beekeeper is an older, male and normally retired. Now we are seeing younger kids, as young as 10 years old, being beekeepers as well as females entering beekeeping industry. It’s no longer just limited to farmers and people with large fields. We are seeing bees where you would never think bees are kept and are more readily available to everyone.”
Being the American Honey Princess is a huge job, 200 to 225 days a year Emily is traveling across the United States educating people about bee keeping and honey, such as events as the Spring Fair in Puyallup, Washington which takes place April 18 through April 21, 2013. Emily is also in school full time as a junior at the University of Minnesota Crookstron pursuing her Bachelor of Science in large animal veterinary medicine. Emily commented: “I have the unique job where I get to see all aspects of beekeeping and how it differs across the United States and how it impacts different areas of the United States as well.”
Emily further explained the complexities of the Honey economy: “For example, honey in Kentucky is $10 a pound, which is extremely high, and is a result of the lack of forage and food for the bees. That can be due to mono cropping or also the destruction of habitat for bees.
Other states, even in Washington State, you do have a lot of local floral sources, but if agriculture continues to expand at the current rate, you’ll see prices sky rocket on everything. There are over 100 different food crops that require honey bee pollination. Crops like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and even cotton for our clothing all require honey bee pollination. It’s now more important than ever, even with such high loss rates [of bees] to preserve the number of bees we currently have.”
Why are the bees becoming extinct? Emily explained, “In the industry, we have coined the term “colony collapse disorder” and it’s basically the bees leaving the hive and not returning. They are leaving empty hives with no bees. We are not exactly sure of the cause. There are a lot of theories on what can cause, for some it is pesticide use, adapting disease that are affecting the honey bees, and destruction of habitat. The main thing we can do is everything that we can to preserve the numbers that we have.
We can do this by planting local flowers, supporting local beekeepers, or becoming one yourself. It [becoming a beekeeper] is a very viable option right now, and something residents in Washington State would be very interested in, as it lends to be a very progressive area.”
Emily is originally from Aitkin, Minnesota. Emily grew up on her grandparents’ poultry farm.
“Aitkin, Minnesota is a very forested wooded area. It’s a great beekeeping area and we have the food and pollen supplies for our bees. We can cultivate specialty varieties of honey. There are over 300 different varieties of honey in the United States alone; each with a different nectar source.
Washington has these types of honey: blackberry, raspberry, fireweed, and an extremely regional meadow foam, which tastes like vanilla pie crust or toasted marshmallow. It’s quite possibly the best honey you’ve ever tasted. Across the world there are 3,000 different varieties of honey. Even if you don’t like honey, you can use in so many ways: your kitchen cabinet, medicine cabinet, and in your gym bag.
[For medical use] Honey is popular with burn treatments as a humectant which attracts moisture and is 100% anti microbial so burn victims put it on their wound and it seals out oxygen while keeping the wound from drying out. Honey has also been proven to prevent rapid tissue grown versus just leaving the wound open.
Honey is a food workout booster to keep in your gym bag, as it has equal levels of glucose and fructose that will give you a quick energy burst, without a crash later. It is also proven to help prevent muscle fatigue. The humectant quality helps you keep hydrated, which is especially important for runners.
The beauty industry is becoming huge for honey; you can purchase salon services for a facial mask milk and honey, which can run about $150. It softens skin and is popular in “sugaring”, which is a form of hair removal. It’s virtually painless and easier on the environment than waxing and is washed down the sink versus throwing away strips and pieces of wax.
Honey, lemon juice, and sugar is the mixture to wax. You smear on your skin hair, it’s coated. and then flicked off. It takes off the hair and not skin underneath it. After sugaring, your skin won’t be red and again it’s virtually painless. It is rising in popularity as “sugaring” is really popular in Minnesota.
Honey is also good for softening calluses; you can put honey on blisters that have popped, as it’s like nature’s Neosporin. With push towards natural remedies, honey will be a staple in the home and medical industries.
There is new research every day on what great things honey can provide.”
Emily discussed how “urban bee keeping” was one of the new avenues of beekeeping. According to Emily, urban bee keeping is the practice of keeping bees in an urban setting. Emily commented: “A lot of times backyards and rooftops have somewhere between 1 to 5 hives usually within city limits. Bee keeping is awesome and hopefully your neighbors won’t mind a larger vegetable crop and their flowers will blossom more prolifically, aside from honey for yourself.”
Emily described more information about urban bee keeping: “Every city has “rooftop bee keeping” especially in New York, Lexington, Kentucky, Chicago, Minneapolis, the list goes on and on. Rooftop bee keeping is becoming extremely popular as people can keep bees on the rooftops of apartment buildings. I’ve seen people put bees on top of their garages, porches, whatever their comfortable with, as long as their city regulation allow it. Dogs, children, or Home Owners Associations may worry about bees stinging people, but honey bees are extremely gentle creatures. They can sting one time and then they die. They have a 6-week life span. Male bees have no stingers and do not work in the hives because they are too big and bulky. It will take 12 worker bees an entire lifetime to make one teaspoon of honey. That is 2 million visits to the flowers to make 1 pound of honey. They don’t want to cut their life short stinging people as they have a lot of work in a 6-week time period.
Drone bees only live 90 days. The male honey bees’ one and only job is to fertilize the queen and this happens once in queen’s lifetime. After the queen is fertilized, the drone bees chill in the hive until September or October when the worker bees drag the drone bees out of the hive and kick them out for winter. The drone bees die and starve. They aren’t collecting food so why should they get to eat in winter, so I see their rationale in that.
The Queen Bee lays 1 to 2,000 eggs every single day of her life. Her one job is to live in the hive. The other bees take care of the queen by feeding or cleaning her. Queen Bees have a 1 to 2 year life span. Every time she lays an egg, she makes a conscious decision whether it’s a male or female. It normally depends on if it is daylight, as she births more males in spring and the rest of year generally females.
Because fertilization takes place in the spring as the year progresses, we need more worker bees to collect and forage pollen, and nectar. Worker bees are all females.
There is one queen that lives in the hive, and if she dies they will find a female egg that is 3 to 4 days old and feed it a protein rich substance called “royal jelly” which allows the female egg to develop a full set of ovaries whereas, a normal worker bees has an underdeveloped set. The queen then has a full set of ovaries, which will allow her to lay 1 to 2000 eggs per day.
That queen will hatch after 16 days.”
When asked how the other bees select the Queen Bee, Emily replied, “They will create 2 to 6 queen cells (eggs that have been fed large quantities of “royal jelly” and first queen to hatch is awarded the position. Her very first job is to kill the other queen cells. The Queen only stays in the bee hive and can sting the other queens multiple times. She’s always in the hive laying eggs and humans very rarely get stung by Queen Bees. If two Queen Bees hatch at the same time, they literally fight to the death of the queen to see who the queen is. It is survival of the fittest at its best.”
This is Emily Campbell’s first time visiting the west coast. Emily stated: “I’ll be working in the Pierce County Bee Keeper booth to answer questions about bees, bee keeping, and honey. There will be observation hives with real bees. I’m an open book and open resource for the public to come ask questions.” Emily will be at the Spring Fair located at 110 9th Ave SW Puyallup, WA 98371 in the Showplex from 10 am to 5 pm the duration of the Spring Fair.
Emily stated: “If the public has any questions I’m the one to ask, bee keepers are all over the place at the Spring Fair. It’s a real treat and the time to buy local honey that is local to this area, since the Fall Puyallup Fair does not sell honey out our booth.”
Emily further explained her travels as the American Honey Princess: “So far I’ve been to 8 states since January. I’ve been going to fairs, school presentations, civic groups, and basically anything you can think of. I’m presenting and educating the public about the bee keeping industry.
I stay with different host families everywhere I go. The local bee keeper club organizes my accommodations. People can request my appearances wherever.”
Emily commented: “Bees and bee keeping is a hobby for me. This is part of the reason I don’t want to have as a career, as I don’t want to wear it out. Bee keeping very fun and when you turn fun into business, it normally is no longer fun. Migratory bee keepers have the craziest lifestyles and it’s not quite the lifestyle for me. Migratory bee keepers can travel up to 9,000 miles a year to haul their bees to different states to home bases such as: North Carolina to pollinate blueberries, Florida for oranges, Oklahoma for cotton pollination, and other different crop pollinating. It is crazy busy and they get paid $80 to $120 for each hive they bring to the crop.”
Lastly, Emily leaves us with this message, “Bees do a lot to help out everybody. It’s time to step up and help the bees as well from our standpoint and definitely come see me at the fair as I have plenty of answers to people’s questions.”
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com
Edited by Reba Winstead, editor for Tacoma.com