Top Pollinator Advocates of the Next Generation

Did you know that the practice of beekeeping dates back more than 4,500 years? For generations, mankind has supported bee health and recognized the important role bees play as pollinators of many of our favorite foods. Without them, both farmers and consumers would be at a great loss.

From what we’ve seen, our youngest generation is doing an incredible job of picking up the mantle to lead the future of beekeeping. This has become even more evident through our Young Beekeeper Award program, which recognizes the industry’s brightest young talent for their efforts in pollinator health and community leadership. In the two years since the award’s inception, we’ve gotten to know amazing student pollinator advocates, including as our first-place winners Jake Reisdorf (2017) and Leo Schirokauer (2018). By the age of 14, Jake founded his own honey company, tended to nearly 100 hives and actively educated his community on the importance of honey bees in the food chain. Leo, 17, spends most days after school in a research lab at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, working to develop a treatment for American Foulbrood disease.

In addition to our latest winners, we’ve rounded up some other top young pollinator advocates that you should keep an eye on. Here’s what they have to say about why the next generation cares so much about the bees.

Maria Alvarez, 18

Maria Alvarez“Over the past eight years, I have devoted over 500 volunteer hours towards improving bee health and education by mentoring new beekeepers, teaming up with local associations to teach classes, speaking at conventions, volunteering at fair booths and creating educational videos. Education is important because it has a multiplying effect, allowing me to teach hundreds of people who have hives of their own or have set up pollinator gardens. By teaching others, I am able to help the bees on a much larger scale than I could by taking care of bees directly.”

Michael Wheeler, 14

Michael Wheeler“With many of yesterday’s beekeepers retiring and leaving empty suits, tomorrow’s people will not know much about bees except that they sting, unless the next generation of beekeepers starts educating the public and encouraging them to care for bees.

Currently I am helping honey bees by performing an experiment in regards to Varroa mites and by being an ambassador for the Williamson County Area Beekeepers Association. Through this program, I am able to educate myself and others by presenting what I have learned. One of my favorite presentations I gave was to a large portion of the Austin Independent School District. The students listened to my presentation to learn where food came from, and I taught them about the production of honey and about bees’ roles in pollinating other fruits and flowers. After I was done presenting the teachers and kids said it was their favorite session of the day!”

Hayden Chrisman, 16

Hayden Chrisman“Fire, honey and stinging insects make beekeeping an adventure. Beekeeping is an art that I have a passion for, and bees need ambassadors. In the future, I want to become a master beekeeper and take on commercial beekeeping as my career. I also want to breed a strain of bees that are resistant to the Varroa mite through instrumental insemination. Bees are vital to our food system, and the more people that know about them the better chance they have to survive and thrive.”