The Bayer Bee Care Program has announced its 2018 Young Beekeeper Award winners, young people chosen for their outstanding commitment to pollinator health. They are the following: Leo Schirokauer, Shaker Heights, Ohio; Daniel McSween, Montgomery, Texas; and Jonathan Murphy, Denison, Texas. The first-place winner will receive $3,000 to put toward his beekeeping projects or college tuition, and the second- and third-place winners will receive $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.
In its second year, the Young Beekeeper Award garnered 50 entries from students across the country, more than double the amount of entries from young beekeepers for last year’s award. The judging panel, which included last year’s winner, Jake Reisdorf, the editor of Bee Culture magazine, Kim Flottum, and Becky Langer, project manager, Bayer North America Bee Care program, chose the winners based on their demonstrated dedication to supporting honey bee health.
“It’s important to recognize and encourage the next generation of beekeepers as it will be their research and stewardship activities that determine the future direction of honey bee health initiatives,” said Langer. “As our current population of beekeepers ages, we hope to inspire today’s young beekeepers to become passionate caretakers of pollinators, which are vital contributors to our food system.”
The Young Beekeeper Award program began in 2017 as an arm of Bayer’s Community Leadership Award, which recognized individuals who used strategic partnerships within their communities to promote bee health. However, due to the number and quality of young applicants, Bayer shifted the award this year to focus entirely on young people and their work in their schools and communities. Every applicant was required to submit answers to two essay questions and show that they were working with a mentor, either at school or specifically within the beekeeping space.
This year’s applicants hailed from 21 states across the country, with several, including the winners, applying through the promotion of the award by beekeeping associations in Texas and Ohio. Many of the students are members of their local beekeeping associations, and a few of them even hold leadership and committee positions.
“Local beekeeping clubs and young beekeepers have a circular effect on each other,” said Flottum. “The clubs provide young people with a platform for questions and learning, as well as a level of mentorship that is often difficult to find otherwise. Students bring new energy and passion to the clubs, and we are always thrilled to see that the future of beekeeping will continue with their hard work.”
The 2018 Young Beekeeper Award winners are:
First Place: Leo Schirokauer, 17, of Shaker Heights, Ohio
Leo Schirokauer, a rising high school senior, is working in the labs of local colleges to find a cure for American Foulbrood, a disease that is fatal to honey bees. After interning in an entomology lab freshman year, Schirokauer began reaching out to local universities to see if he could use their biology labs for his research. He now works every day at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to produce a protein that kills American Foulbrood. This bacteria should be able to protect hives against American Foulbrood without creating resistant strains of the disease. The 17-year-old will be testing the bacteria this summer to determine if it can indeed kill American Foulbrood.
Second Place: Daniel McSween, 17, of Montgomery, Texas
Daniel McSween is also a rising senior, and his honeybee projects focused on identifying and testing treatments for hives infected by Varroa mites. Using the sugar shake assessment method, McSween conducted several studies on the effectiveness of powdered sugar or solutions made up of glycerin and oxalic acid. McSween presented his findings at the Science & Engineering Fair of Houston, the International Sustainable World (Engineering, Energy, Environment) Project and the Texas Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. He is an active member of his local beekeepers’ association, even serving as a mentor to new beekeepers.
Third Place: Jonathan Murphy, 17, of Denison, Texas
Jonathan “JD” Murphy began keeping bees with his father when he was 12. That same year, he received the Collin County Hobbyist Beekeepers Association scholarship, which involved taking a year-long beginner’s class and presenting to the club twice a year. Eventually, he helped found the Grayson County Beekeepers’ Club. Through the club, Murphy has been able to take his equipment and an observation hive to local elementary schools, a 4-H club and Future Farmers of America meeting and other events within his community. He recently began working on creating a scholarship program within his club as a way to “pay it forward.”
Last year’s winner, 15-year-old Jake Reisdorf, owns his own business, Carmel Honey Company, and manages more than 100 hives with his family. Reisdorf also places hives on residential and business properties when requested, and he often presents to local schools and garden clubs about the importance of honey bees in our food system.
“This year has been a great experience, one full of learning opportunities,” said Reisdorf. “I’m so grateful to have been chosen as the winner of the first Young Beekeeper Award in 2017, and I know that this year’s winners will be excellent examples of how youth is contributing to and making an impact in agriculture and pollinator health.”