Thane Wetjen working with his bees north of the Henderson Community Garden
Thane Wetjen, a Heartland junior, has the buzz for bees. He first got interested in raising his own bees after talking with Heartland 2022 graduate Carson Ott. Ott received a scholarship to start his bee business through the Nebraska Beekeepers Association by writing an essay about how to save the bees a few years back.
After talking to Ott, Wetjen decided to do the same. He applied for the scholarship and wrote an essay about the many uses of wax from bees besides candles. He, too, was awarded the scholarship, and as part of the scholarship, he received his first bees, beehive, and supplies for getting started.
An important part of the scholarship is the hands-on training the Nebraska Beekeepers Association offers and a mentor to guide youth through their first year.
“I’ve attended their classes at the University of Nebraska and was able to observe their hives firsthand and learned how to check and clean the hives. They educated me about recognizing Varroa mites that can infect your hive,” said Wetjen. He also has learned the ins and outs of working with bees, uses for honey, and how to prepare his hive for winter.
He received his first bees this past May and located them outside of the city limits for a short time until he received permission from the Henderson City Council to put them in town. His hive is located just north of the Henderson Community Garden, and he thinks it’s a great place for the bees to thrive, being close to water and having plenty of blossoms nearby.
“I’ve been very happy with the growth of my hive this first season, but I won’t be able to harvest any honey until the hive foundation is firmly established,” said Wetjen.
Wetjen admits he’s been stung about three times, but he isn’t scared of working with his bees and isn’t allergic to their stings. He doesn’t have a full protective suit yet, but he wears a veil, a long-sleeved shirt under a sweatshirt, and thick gloves when he is working with the bees.
He loves to educate others about bees and hear their bee stories. He was recently at Henderson Heritage Day when he set up his Bee Keeping Story poster and spent the day talking to visitors about bees at their apiary display in the Heritage Park Ag building.
As an FFA member, Wetjen entered his Bee Keeping Story project in the Nebraska State Fair and won Grand Champion and Overall Reserve Champion for his apiculture display of a beekeeping story. He’s not afraid to talk to the public about his new adventure and what he’s learned.
“I look forward to educating other FFA members and elementary-aged kids about the good in bees and how they can help, not harm you. I’ve always loved bugs, but I really never imagined having bees of my own,” said Wetjen.
Soon, he will be winterizing his hive by providing an outside protective cover and additional food so they will make it through the winter inside the hive. Hopefully, next year, Wetjen will be displaying and selling his honey and wax products.
Wetjen is checking on his bee hive, wearing protective clothing, and using a smoker machine that promotes the bees to eat honey in case they need to leave the hive, making them less apt to sting.