Caroline Lowery, 17, surrounds herself with a little more buzz than the average teenager.
The Ashley Hall senior spends much of her free time caring for and blogging about European honey bees.
The Charleston Area Beekeepers Association recently nominated her for South Carolina’s Junior Beekeeper of the Year. She’ll find out if she won the title in June.
“Caroline’s not only very knowledgeable and well-spoken, but she’s gained more experience as a young beekeeper than most of us have in five years,” the association’s president Larry Haigh said of Caroline’s accomplishments, which included two weeks studying bees in the almond orchards of California.
Caroline read “The Secret Life of Bees” when she was in the ninth grade. Since then, she’s been fascinated by the insects.
She spent a year researching bees and completed a senior internship in Maryland at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Honeybee Research Laboratory before taking on two hives of her own.
“My internship really gave me the confidence to handle beekeeping on my own. It allowed me the opportunity to get into a hive and be covered in bees and not be scared,” Caroline said.
Caroline’s hives rest comfortably on land her family owns on Edisto Island. She hoped to keep them in her backyard in Charleston, but the Edisto property’s isolation and bountiful plant life made it the better choice.
She said European honey bees aren’t particularly aggressive — she’s only been stung once despite all of the time she spends with them — but her family didn’t want to risk them swarming or stinging neighborhood children and pets.
Caroline goes to Edisto roughly every two weeks to feed her bees a sugar-water mixture and to clear out a beetle trap she uses to protect her hives. She tracks everything she’s learned as a beginner beekeeper on her blog and senior project “Becoming Queen Bee.”
“With the blog I get to open my hive and really investigate deeper than I would if I was just taking care of the bees. Every time I notice a change in my hives, I read and do research so I can really understand what’s going on,” Caroline said.
Caroline said despite all of the time she’s put into research, she’s still relatively new to the beekeeping scene. Being green comes with its setbacks.
After noticing the population of one hive gradually decreasing over time, she was shocked to discover it entirely empty on a recent trip to Edisto.
The hive’s death was a blow to her confidence, but more seasoned beekeepers reassured her that the turn of events wasn’t her fault.
“I love my bees so much, so it was so upsetting when my hive died. I was really distraught about it. I started thinking, ‘Am I really up for this? Do I really know what I’m doing.’
“I guess that’s the hardest part of beekeeping: to know that at the end of the day, the bees are going to do what they’re going to do and you can’t control them. But you can always try again,” Caroline said.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.