Teen With 10 Years of Experience Serves as President of Orange Blossom Beekeepers Association
by KENZIE CARLSON
photos provided by CADY STUDIOS
It isn’t often that a childhood dream sticks with someone long enough to take shape, but 18-year-old Miranda Clementel of Orlando is well on her way to making her dream of a career working with bees a reality. That’s an aspiration the president of the Orange Blossom Beekeepers Association has had since she was just 8 years old.
Clementel became fascinated with beekeeping as a young girl when her neighbor, Alfonso Moreno, a hobbyist beekeeper himself, showed her his beehives.
“I started with asking some simple questions. … He let me intern for him, I helped him for a couple years and then eventually I got my first beehive,” Clementel says.
After getting her first hive from Moreno, Clementel poured her time and effort into learning everything she could about bees and beekeeping.
At age 11, she got involved with the Orange Blossom Beekeepers Association — first as a member, then as vice president and now president of the association. According to its website, the association’s mission is “to educate, mentor, assist, inspire, support, and promote beekeeping in the state of Florida and beyond.”
Her leadership experience doesn’t stop there, though. The senior at Dr. Phillips High School also serves as president of her school’s FFA chapter.
From a young age, Clementel has been involved in the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab’s Bee College lectures each fall and spring. She first attended them to learn, but now hosts lectures at the event.
Her love for the field has laid out a path for college and beyond. She plans to go to college to study entomology or agribusiness and continue her studies in bee labs to assist in her career goals.
“When I get out of college, my goal is to really expand on my business, either through pollination or honey,” Clementel says.
“For pollination, there’s something known as a commercial beekeeper — someone who has thousands of hives and will send them to different states like California and New York for plant pollination,” she adds.
Clementel hopes her efforts to educate others about honey bees will change some of the misconceptions people have about bees and beekeeping.
One of these misunderstandings, Clementel says, involves “killer bees.”
“There’s no such thing as killer bees,” she explains.
“They’re just Africanized honey bees. Africanized honey bees are a subspecies of honey bees. They’re more defensive.”
Because of this, “You’re more likely to get chased by them for a bit longer than the normal European honey bee,” Clementel says. “European honey bees are what most beekeepers have.”
Of the many threats honey bees face, the most notable reason for population decline is varroa mites, according to Clementel.
She says that while researchers have been able to temporarily decrease the varroa mite population in hives, a better solution is still needed.
“Varroa mites have become resistant to some of these treatments,” Clementel explains.
She believes education and advocacy for honey bees are what will drive their numbers back up.
“Knowing the proper way to care for them and give them good nutrition and keeping them healthy is [the goal] because as beekeepers, we are just really trying to assist them,” she says.
She adds that it’s important to buy bee products from local beekeepers as that, too, can aid in the well-being of bees.
“For those who aren’t beekeepers, support your local beekeepers by buying their products, planting plants, and trying to use less pesticides or using honey bee-friendly pesticides.”
According to the USDA, honey bees pollinate about 130 different crops amounting to $15 billion worth each year. As a result, any decrease in the honey bee population could have severe consequences on crops, food sources, and human nutrition.
“Honey bees pollinate lots of the foods we eat in our everyday life,” Clementel says.
“For example, coffee would become a lot harder for us to get our hands on and become a lot more expensive.”