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Kamler family knows their bees-ness

Shickley family also helped establish bee colony at Fillmore County Extension
Office in Geneva.

By Lisa Henrickson
Shickley Signal Correspondent

If someone asked if you wanted to be a beekeeper, you might tell them to “buzz off.”  Bees bring to mind bad memories if a person has been stung, but Renae Kamler has only good memories of bees and beekeeping.
Renae remembers helping her father and grandfather gather honey using an extractor.  She was happy to turn the crank and get the sweet goodness from the bees who helped pollinate their many fruit trees.
Renae found a way to bring that memory of honey extracting to her children as well.  Through an application and essay contest via the Nebraska Beekeepers Association’s Youth Program which reaches out to youth ages 14-17. Renae’s daughter, Maddie, 14 years old at the time, was awarded a grant.  The Beekeepers not only provided Maddie with instruction in beekeeping, they offered a complete hive, honeybee package, protective gear, hive tool, bee brush, and smoker, as well as a mentor to assist her during her first year.
In February 2017, Renae and Maddie began their training with books, classes, and hands-on experience in workshops.  Maddie’s father, Pat, helped build the frames.  In April 2017, a delivery truck loaded with wooden boxes from California brought the Kamlers a three-pound box of about 10,000 bees, along with a small cage containing the queen.  
The Kamlers unloaded the bees into their prepared hive.  The bees adapted well, and their population grew.  A healthy hive can contain up to 50,000 bees.
A hive consists of three types of bees. The worker bees, about 80 percent of the total, are busy cleaning, caring for the young, caring for the queen, gathering and processing the pollen and nectar, and making honey.  The drone bees’ job is to mate with the queen so that she can lay the necessary eggs.  The queen is there simply to lay eggs, thereby keeping up the population of the hive.  The hives have brood frames which serve as a nursery of sorts, where the eggs are laid and larvae formed, eventually transforming into needed bees for the hive.  The bees are needed because worker bees have a short lifespan.
The Kamlers continue to learn more about beekeeping and have added an additional hive near their farm place outside Shickley.  Classes this year involved bee health and how to rid the hive of different kinds of pests.  Some hands on experience was gained at the UNL Bee Lab by Mead, Nebraska.
The Kamlers’ knowledge and enthusiasm has rubbed off onto the 4-H Extension staff, and they have helped establish a thriving hive in Geneva near the Fillmore County UNL Extension Office.  The Kamlers are also a resource for Norm Girmus, a Geneva citizen, who is thinking about establishing a hive of his own.
Part of Maddie’s award also asks her to educate the public in different ways.  She has made posters for 4-H and has also entered honey at both the County and State Fairs.  She also serves as a volunteer at the State Fair in the Nebraska Beekeepers Association booth.  Both Maddie and her younger sister, Mindy, think the ice cream at the booth is fantastic.
So what does Maddie like most about this endeavor?
“The best part of beekeeping is getting to eat the fruits of your labor," she said.  "Another good thing about keeping bees is the family bonding.  We work together to get things done.”
The Kamlers allowed me to tag along to experience the buzz of the bees during harvest time.  I put some protective gear on and I got up close and personal—well, actually not too close—to snap some pictures of the process.
First, the bees are calmed by the smoker.  Second, the super frames are collected with their indented honey combs, which the bees add to and cap off after they initially fill them with honey.  The frames are put into the extractor.  When this is cranked, the extractor spins honey out of the frame onto the side of the container, where it eventually flows down to the bottom.
Finally, the honey is poured through a fine strainer to allow the pure honey to be bottled.  Then the harvest is ready to be enjoyed by all!