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Published September 24, 2012, 10:57 AM

Queen bee

Some people view bees as a nuisance or a threat. Emily Campbell sees the insects as fascinating and beneficial.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Some people view bees as a nuisance or a threat. Emily Campbell sees the insects as fascinating and beneficial.

“They’re really super-interesting. And they’re so important to agriculture,” says Campbell, a native of Aitkin, Minn., and a freshman at the University in Minnesota, Crookston.

Campbell — the Minnesota Honey Queen and a seven-time grand champion at the Minnesota State Fair for projects involving bees — will compete in Hersey, Pa., in January to become American Honey Queen. If selected, she will spend a year representing the American honey industry.

“She has so much enthusiasm. And she’s willing to learn. She reminds me of a sponge the way she’s able to soak up information,” says Cathy Rufer, a beekeeper based in Waverly, Minn., and a member of the Minnesota Honey Producers Association.

“We really need a voice to capture the true value of honey bees,” says Rufer, adding that Campbell performs the role well. She also notes that September is National Honey Month.

Campbell first became interested in bees when she was in sixth grade. She entered the entomology category in a 4-H contest and went on to become the state grand champion, the first of her seven titles in the category.

Bees “are just so intelligent and organized. There’s a reason for everything they do,” she says.

In 2011, she decided to start producing her own honey. No one in her family had ever kept bees, so she approached the North Central Beekeepers Association in Brainerd, Minn., for advice.

The organization was very helpful, says Campbell, who also thanks her hometown for the support it’s provided.

Her grandparents, who run a poultry farm and have cattle, have been helpful, too. They have clover and alfalfa fields near Campbell’s house, and her bees feed on those fields.

Campbell’s 2011 honey crop was hurt by bad weather, but she has a good crop this year — about 90 pounds of honey that she’ll give away.

She’s working to bring bees to the University of Minnesota, Crookston. “I’ll do it as soon as I get approval (from school officials), and they sound really cool with it,” she says.

The bees would help pollinate nearby crops, she notes.

Campbell is studying to become a veterinarian and hopes to work with cattle and sheep. But she expects to keep raising bees as a hobby.

‘Job interview’

Being named Minnesota Honey Queen wasn’t like winning a traditional beauty contest, Campbell says.

She describes it as a “job interview” in which contestants were quizzed on their knowledge of bees and the honey industry.

The national competition will test contestants’ communication skills, as well as their knowledge of, and commitment to, the honey industry, Rufer says.

She has great confidence in Campbell’s ability to serve as American Honey Queen if she is selected.

Campbell is available to speak at area schools and events. For more information, contact Rufer at honeylady50@msn.com.

The general public has many misperceptions about bees, often confusing them with wasps and hornets, Campbell says.

“I want to help people learn more about bees and honey,” she says. “There’s so much to tell.”

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