bee camp

Stacy VanDortrecht shows, from left, Miles Bogan, Mabrey Calloway and Harley Rider a tray of live bees at the 4-H Junior beekeeping class conducted by the CABA and the Elmore County 4-H office Friday at Wetumpka Elementary School.

Stacy VanDortrecht knows her bees so well she doesn’t bother with protective clothing from the shoulders down when she takes them out of the hive.

“It’s too hot,” she said through the one shield she wears — a veil to keep them off her face.

Call her the bee whisperer. She knows where they will fly when she gently pulls them out of the hive and she’s not even bothered by a few stray stings.

The students she worked with at last week’s beekeepers class at Wetumpka Elementary School aren’t that brave yet but they left with wax under their fingernails and honey in their blood.

VanDortrecht, the vice president of the sponsoring Central Alabama Beekeepers Association, and CABA president Allyson Andrews helped educate students from ages 8 to 18 in the association’s eighth annual bee camp. CABA is a partner with the Elmore County 4-H and the Elmore County Board of Education in the camp.

“They learn the biology and society of the bees,” Andrews said. “They learn how to extract honey and about the different honeys — there are thousands depending on the different flora sources.”

Students even made soap, candles and lip balm from the wax and honey the bees produce.

Mabrey Calloway, 16, a senior at Wetumpka High School, said she enjoyed her third year in the program.

“I love bees,” she said. “They’re interesting. I’m not as scared of them as most people are of them. They’re not that scary. You learn how interesting they are and how they work as groups yet they are also independent. You get to be hands on.”

But not too hands on.

“I’ve never been stung by a bee — never,” Calloway said. “I have been stung by a red wasp.”

Next year’s camp is July 14-15 at Jasmine Hill Gardens.