Kelly Klick (Tjepkes)

Kelly Klick (formerly Tjepkes) is from the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She had no prior experience with beekeeping (except an appreciation for honey), but one of her teachers at North Hennepin Community College suggested she look into the competition though she’d never considered doing anything like the honey queen program but thought, “why not?” In order to prepare she studied a lot of books that her teacher lent her and she took an introductory course in beekeeping at the University of Minnesota.

Kelly was 20 when she became the Minnesota Honey Queen and the following year, when she was 21, she won the national competition. She was the only contestant in the Minnesota competition but once she made it to the national competition, she had 7 or 8 other competitors. Her biggest challenges in the program were getting over being nervous in front of large groups of people, adjusting to different food, cultures and climates while she was traveling. Prior to her reign and tour, Kelly had never been outside of Minnesota. She most enjoyed the visits to the coasts, especially California and Texas. She also joked that sometimes she would be touring in places without cell service and that was quite difficult. Though there were challenges, she overcame her shyness and became much more comfortable speaking in public.

Kelly especially enjoyed of her conversations with kids about how honey is made. Meeting beekeepers around the country was also an incredible experience for her. They were really friendly and truly wanted to teach her because “they knew that I was the way to get information to the media and to the public.” Kelly explained her role as an “ambassador” to advertise and promote the industry. She mentioned that in some ways, Colony Collapse Disorder was helpful for the industry because it got people’s attention and showed them just how vital beekeeping is to agriculture. One of her favorite quotes is by Einstein: “if honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years.”

Kelly’s experience as honey queen made her much more aware of the industry herself as she formerly had no interaction with it. Now she always buys honey from local sources rather than at the grocery store, she still talks to people at fairs and helps chaperone new Honey Queens and Princesses when they are in town. Once she and her husband move from their apartment into a house she plans on having her own hives. Until then, she has become friends with a beekeeper at her church. With her background as honey queen, she has advised him on technical beekeeping things like checking for mites, smoking and taking out combs. In return, he’s given her more experience inside the hive.

Kristen Lang (Miller)

Kristen Lang (formerly Miller) grew up in suburban Pennsylvania but because her father worked as the county extension director for Penn State and kept bees as a hobby, she grew up around bees. When he retired in the late 1980s he turned his operation into a full time apiary called Beaver Valley Honey. With this experience under her belt, Kristen Kristen entered and won the Pennsylvania state honey queen competition in 2003 and the national competition in 2004. She was queen when she was 23.

To prepare for the competitions Kristen did a lot of preparation, asking her dad a lot of questions about the technicalities of beekeeping and working with Maryann Frazier who is the Senior Extension Associate of Penn State and acted as a mentor to Kristen. Ultimately, she says, she was motivated to participate in the program because she really believes in the industry and thinks it is an “awesome opportunity to educate people about the honey industry.” She also emphasized how great the Honey Queen program is for encouraging girls to build self-esteem, confidence and healthy relationships. Indeed, Kristen grew very close to her second in command, Honey Princess Kelsey Limerick. Kelsey even attended her wedding!

As Queen, Kristen’s primary responsibility was to educate individuals about honey and beekeeping. She toured the US, making stops in various schools, fairs and other venues to give presentations. She most enjoyed the opportunity to meet and learn from beekeepers and working with school-aged kids. She was pretty nervous around the beekeepers who had been beekeeping their whole lives but she was excited about the challenge to learn from them. Kristen performed her queenly duties while she was still taking a class at Penn State, where she studied graphic design. The Honey Queen program gave her the opportunity to do a number of things she otherwise would never get to experience like grafting queen bees and trying apitherapy—an alternative medical treatment that involves being stung by a honey bee.

Looking to the future of the beekeeping industry, Kristen things a lot of things will change. For one thing, she sees a back to nature movement getting more people interested in the bee industry, creating a greater demand for local honey and more communities of beekeepers. She also explained that Penn State has been researching different bee diseases and Colony Collapse Disorder in order to make a healthier bee. Bees continue to play a role in Kristen’s life now. She currently works in graphic design and photography. She sometimes photographs honey and is currently working on a website design for her father’s apiary.