Delaware 4-H’er places second in national bee essay contest

May 24, 2013 in Kent County 4-H, mainfeature

girl with beehive

4-H’er Spring Vasey, 14, by one of two hives she tends at her family farm in Lincoln, Del.

Spring Vasey, 14, of Lincoln Delaware, and nine-year member of the Pure Country 4-H Club, has received a Second Place honor in a  national beekeeping essay contest.

The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, calls upon 4-H youth members throughout the country to respond to a different essay theme each year. For 2013, young writers and beekeepers were challenged to address the topic, “Reducing the Usage of Bee-killing Pesticides in my Community.”  Vasey responded to the call with her essay, The Buzz is, We Can Bee Better About Pesticides. (Click the title to read the full essay).

Vasey learned about the contest and its requirements through her Kent County 4-H office and newsletter. A home-schooled eighth grader at Water Girl Farms Academy, Vasey lives on a 28-acre farm that parents Jody and Dean named for their daughters, Spring, Rain, Lake and Spring’s eldest sister Brooke, who died in an accident in 2008.  Vasey and her mother Jody are the primary beekeepers in the family and have been engaged in the project for the past two years. In addition to the two hives, which yield four gallons of honey each fall, the family farm and learning academy are home to 46 laying hens,  two show pigs and eight Icelandic sheep. The Vaseys also grow and sell pasture hay, and sell their eggs and sheep milk soap at a local farmers market. For her 4-H projects, Spring is involved with poultry, dairy, sheep, dairy goats, foods & nutrition, horticulture, clothing & textiles, community service, arts & crafts, archery and video photography.  One might say Spring and her family are busy as bees. Yet, there was somehow the time to produce a thoughtful, thorough essay.

“I had to do a lot of research,” Vasey said. Indeed, at just under 1,000 words, in determining “why have our honey bees been disappearing?” Vasey conducted interviews with experts at Cooperative Extension, Delaware Department of Agriculture and DNREC, and also contacted local farmers and beekeepers and an area crop duster for a diverse examination of the issue. In addition, Vasey consulted 16 outside publications and websites to get at the answer – and offer a solution – for an issue of great concern to beekeepers, farmers, horticulturists and naturalists.

Her research, Vasey writes, was an eye-opener. One of the biggest culprits, Vasey discovered, was the adverse effects mosquito control had on honey bees. “I found out that people who use those mosquito tablets, in their ponds, can be harmful to honey bees,” Vasey says. “Bees go to the same water to drink,” she lamented.  The pesticides can be fatal, Vasey said, or at the very least, affect what Vasey calls their internal GPS system and making them act crazy. “We need to be careful,” she adds.

Vasey also learned the important lesson of cooperation and advanced notice when crop dusting is scheduled in nearby fields. Timing is everything. Bees are inside their hives during the dusk and dawn, making those times the ideal window for the crop duster to do his or her work. Vasey’s essay touts the importance of raising awareness, coordinating spray timing, and protecting hives during scheduled sprays. “The simple act of sharing information and communicating between beekeepers and pesticides users, we will have more food, and many more ‘bee-utiful’ honey bees!” Vasey concludes in her essay.

For her Second-Place win, Vasey received a check for $500. ” I was so excited to learn I had won,” Vasey says, adding that the winnings “will probably go toward some beekeeping supplies!”