Working wonders: fair classes include beekeeping
ELKHORN — A lifelong nature and honeybee lover, Kristine Karlson remembers herself as a 3-year-old, “watching, touching and happily humming along with the honeybees in my family's garden.”
Karlson is hoping attendees of her presentations at the Walworth County Fair will become ardent fans of the honeybee, too.
She will offer two programs at the Learning Coop during the fair's run: Beekeeping with Kristine Karlson at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 30; and From Beehive to Your Kitchen at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31.
She's been a beekeeper for nearly a decade. She decided to keep her own hives to help support the bee population, which is facing some serious problems from mites and pesticides.
Karlson belongs to the Walworth County Beekeepers Club, and she credited experienced members there with broadening her knowledge of her hobby.
“There's a lot to learn about honeybees,” Karlson wrote in an email. “It is great having others to share experiences with and discuss what is happening in our beehives right now.”
In her third year of teaching beekeeping classes at the fair, Karlson also teaches at schools, churches and even Gateway Technical College.
She said people might be surprised to know just how short and hardworking the life of a foraging honeybee is.
“The forager is a female worker bee that will visit up to 1,400 flowers a day, traveling up to four miles,” Karlson said. “She will communicate with her sisters at the hive using her 'waggle dance' to navigate the others to the best nectar and pollen areas. She transports more than half her weight in nectar and pollen, carrying it back to the hive, working every day until her wings have worn out. (S)he dies within three to six weeks. During her short lifetime, she will bring in enough nectar to fill one-tenth of a teaspoon of honey. Every drop of honey is precious gold.”
Karlson said her beehive-to-kitchen class came about because she wanted to show people how much a honeybee hive offers — not only honey, but beeswax, pollen and propolis, a compound bees make from sap, beeswax and their saliva, that some researchers believe has antioxidant and antifungal properties.
“Visitors (to the class) ... will learn about rendering wax, and all the many ways wonderful, natural beeswax can be utilized,” she said. “I will share some honey recipes and how to incorporate honey into our daily lives and into recipes to replace table sugar. I will include the health benefits of pure, raw and natural honey.
“There is a lot of interest in beekeeping these days. Some new beekeepers are not sure how to render the wax cappings after extraction of the summer honey, and they would like to learn how to use wax for projects. In this class we will melt and clean some beeswax cappings and use them for a class project.”
Karlson is a regular vendor at the Elkhorn farmers market every Saturday during the season, bringing to her stand not only products, but bee supplies and even new photos every week.
“I truly enjoy talking to visitors and customers, sharing beautiful pictures and stories about our wonderful honeybees,” she said. “Honeybees' buzz is a very meditative sound. They are amazing and very relaxing to watch and learn from.”
Even after 10 years as a beekeeper, Kristine Karlson finds she's still learning things about honeybees. Karlson will share her knowledge and enthusiasm during two classes this week during the Walworth County Fair. (See details below right.)