Clayton Lee, president of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association, presented Erin Mullins the distinction of Beekeeper of the Yea during the fall conference of the MSBA at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Clayton Lee, president of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association, presented Erin Mullins the distinction of Beekeeper of the Yea during the fall conference of the MSBA at the Lake of the Ozarks.

By Christina Rice

After six years of beekeeping, Erin Mullins, Skidmore, earned the Missouri State Beekeeper of the Year award.

Mullins began her beekeeping career as an FFA project and later took a beginner course at Northwest Technical School. She started with three beehives and has grown her operation to five hives.

“I was surprised. Usually the winners are beekeepers who have been around for 20-plus years,” Mullins said.

Mullins was the 2014 Missouri Honey Princess and the 2015 Missouri Honey Queen, allowing her to travel throughout Missouri and Kansas speaking at a variety of events, promoting and educating the public on honeybees. She has also spoken at area and Kansas City schools.

Hungry honeybees

Honeybees have faced multiple challenges in recent years including a diminishing food supply.

“People do not want weeds in their yards and they spray them. The weeds, such as dandelions, ragweed and sunflowers, are the first food choice for honeybees,” Mullins said.

They also like wildflowers which are not as prominent in the fields as they used to be. Some flower heads, such as red clover, are too deep for the bees to reach. Bees must now travel farther and work harder to survive.

Mullins said honeybees are important for human food sources as one out of every three bites of food we eat has been pollinated by bees.

“They are out looking for food; they are not out to hurt you. If they sting you, you probably surprised them,” Mullins said. “They are so important. We need to work together to keep them alive.”

Hives consist of one queen bee that lays eggs and female worker bees. Worker bees collect nectar to make honey. They only live a few weeks due to the strain of finding and collecting nectar. The queen can live up to three years because she is pampered inside the hive.

Worker bees feed each larvae a royal jelly type of food which develops its reproductive organs. After three days, if a new queen is not needed, the workers stop feeding the larvae royal jelly and the larva will become worker bees, too. The worker bees are under-developed which accounts for their smaller size. If a new queen is needed, they will chose one larva and continue to feed it royal jelly until it matures into a queen.

Each hive has a small amount of male bees, approximately 200, and their only job is to mate with the queen. Once winter sets in, the male bees are kicked out of the hive to conserve food. The rest of the bees cluster around the queen to keep her warm. A healthy hive can have up to 60,000 bees and keep the hive at 90 degrees.

Pure honey boosts your health

Pure honey, which is not processed, can boost your immune system and soothe coughs, colds and sore throats. Local beekeepers filter their honey to remove wax and bee parts, but they do not heat the honey, keeping it pure, and they do not add corn syrup. Mullins states that heating the honey can kill the good bacteria and beneficial properties.

Consumers should store honey at room temperature because refrigeration speeds up crystallization, hardening of the honey. If the honey hardens, don’t microwave it. Microwaves heat the honey too fast and kill the beneficial properties. Instead, warm a pan of water, set the honey jar in the water and let it gradually melt.

“It’s a very relaxing hobby. There is so much to learn. I have been a keeper for six years and I still take classes to learn new techniques,” Mullins said.

Northwest Missouri Beebusters sell their honey in local establishments. To inquire about locations, email

Northwest Missouri Beebusters meet at 7 pm, the second Monday of the month at the County Administration Building.

Northwest Technical School will offer a beginning beekeeping course from 1 to 4 pm, January 7, 2017.