- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) - He may only be 12 years old, but Charles Aufdenkamp has developed skills many adults never master. It’s all because of his new business.

Aufdenkamp is a beekeeper - one of the few in Lincoln County, The North Platte Telegraph reported (http://bit.ly/1t6U7Rf ).

“Honey bees are really intriguing creatures,” said Aufdenkamp, of North Platte. “They are so little, but they can do such big things. I think that’s really cool.”

He became interested in the insects after seeing a display the Nebraska Beekeepers Association had at the Nebraska State Fair in 2013.

Aufdenkamp decided to participate in an essay contest the association was offering, unknowingly starting himself on an entrepreneurial journey. In January, he was named one of 10 winners of the competition.

Aufdenkamp earned the opportunity to attend a two-day beekeeping class at the West Central Research and Extension Center. He and his dad also traveled to Lincoln to work with professional beekeepers.

Aufdenkamp learned how to make his own hive, and the beekeepers association gave him leather gloves, a hat with a veil, a smoker and all the other equipment needed to start raising bees.

He was even provided with the bees - 3,000 at first, but now Aufdenkamp estimates the number has grown to 20,000-30,000.

He set his hive up in a pasture behind his family’s house and checks it on a weekly basis. Aufdenkamp has been stung on occasion but can usually avoid that by introducing a small amount of smoke to the hive.

“Too much smoke would kill them,” Aufdenkamp said, “but a little bit just disorients the bees and makes them go back into the hive.”

He gave them sugar water initially to encourage them to start producing honey. Now, his colony is pretty much self-sufficient.

There is some honey in the hive, but Aufdenkamp won’t harvest it until next year. He wants to give the bees a chance to consume it and build up the colony.

“A normal hive is 60,000 bees,” Aufdenkamp said. “I monitor the hive for disease because that is what has caused the decline in honeybees nationwide. I also check to make sure the bees are still in the hive. As long as the queen is happy she will stay, but if she leaves, all the other bees will follow her.”

The knowledge he has gained is helping him in school, where his class is currently learning about insects. His experience also qualified him to work at the beekeepers association booth at the state fair in August.

Aufdenkamp has honed his interview skills and given presentations at the county and state levels because of the beekeeping. Next year, he will also have an income: Selling honey.

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Information from: The North Platte Telegraph, http://www.nptelegraph.com

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