- Associated Press - Sunday, October 16, 2016

ORD, Neb. (AP) - Shelby Kittle treats her friend, Beatrice, like a queen. A queen bee, that is.

Shelby, 17, of Ord is the proud owner and caretaker of 11 honeybee hives. She sells the honey at farmers markets during the summer and educates kids about bees in her spare time. Beatrice is Shelby’s most prized queen bee. To keep her warm in the winter, Shelby plans to install a clear tube in her bedroom window, which will allow Beatrice to stay in Shelby’s room and then fly out when needed.

“I never really was one of those lemonade-stand girls,” Shelby said of her bug interests.

She is a self-proclaimed nerd.

“I’m more of a Science Olympiad,” Shelby said.

The thought of saving for college came early for Shelby. She started her own business when she was 9 years old to start saving her pennies.

The Grand Island Independent (https://bit.ly/2e8Rbzl ) reports that Shelby collected night crawlers and sold them to community members. Then she wanted to get into something bigger, so she started painting lures. Her dad had friends who wanted her to paint them lures after they saw her talent, so her business expanded. Then she moved on to painting mailboxes.

“I’ve loved to draw since I was little,” Shelby said.

She said she knows of a few people who have her mailboxes in their living rooms because they thought they were too pretty to keep outside.

As time went on, Shelby got more involved. She’s a member of the local FBLA and FFA chapters. She went to a speaker who talked about beekeeping. As a lifelong bug lover, Shelby’s itch began to spread.

“I was trying to find an excuse to get my mom to let me have bees,” Shelby said.

Once she heard the man speak about his bee business, she said, her interest ignited.

“I started doing research because I knew I had no idea what I was doing,” Shelby said.

Shelby ended up earning a scholarship from the Nebraska Beekeepers Association. The scholarship started her on her way and sponsored one hive. She started in January 2015 and had three hives last year.

Now she has 11 hives, one of which she uses solely for educational and presentation purposes. Shelby presented to area 4-H camps through collaborations with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office. Shelby said she hopes to grow by three more hives this year.

“I’m extremely happy when I can share my interest in bugs,” Shelby said.

Shelby’s mom, Tammy, said, “it’s enthralling to watch that hive,” and the bees working away.

Shelby said the bees are mainly self-sufficient, especially during warm months when they pollinate and fly back to the hive to make honey.

“It’s mainly just checking to make sure they’re OK,” Shelby said. She opens the hive to check in about every two weeks.

During the cold months, she feeds the bees sugar cakes and syrup so they can keep making honey. She sells the honey during the summer farmer’s markets. This summer was only her second time selling honey, Shelby said. She sells cut comb honey, which is honeycomb that still has the beeswax. This summer, she was able to have enough honey to sell in liquid form, too.

“It sold so fast,” Shelby said of the cut comb honey. “It’s sort of a lost market because not many people do it commercially anymore.”

Shelby had 60 pounds of cut comb honey and 8 gallons of bottled honey.

Shelby said she would keep selling honey throughout the year “if I had some.” When she sold honey this summer, she sold half of her stock the first day.

Shelby has only been stung 11 times in nearly two years of beekeeping.

“I look at it as an occupational hazard,” she said.

Shelby said she doesn’t really fear being stung, but it’s important to know what to do if you are stung. She said she teaches kids to take a hard, edgy object, such as a credit card, to scrape the stinger out.

Tammy has also learned a few things in regards to being stung.

“I learned don’t pull your glove off to get a taste of honey,” Tammy said.

Tammy said it’s hard to keep up with Shelby with how involved she is. Shelby is a regular busy bee.

But she said seeing her daughter so interested in bees reminds her of when she was a little girl and chased butterflies. Tammy said it’s great to see Shelby doing what she loves.

“I’m as proud as I can be of her,” Tammy said.


Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com

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