So you want to be a beekeeper?

Eighteen-year-old Molly Carlson makes it look easy.

Carlson, a Cary native, started keeping bees in 2012 when she found her passion through a 4-H youth program. Ever since, she has been working hard to maintain as many as 20 hives at once and educate others about the importance of bees – all while juggling classes and homework.

“It takes a lot of commitment,” she said. “You can’t just go in once a year and check on your hives – you have to constantly be on top of everything.”

As she spent more time with the little insects, Carlson decided bees would be a perfect topic for her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor given to girls in the organization. She wanted to focus on community outreach because she found that there weren’t many people who understood the real value of pollinators. But even with her parents’ help, she realized the project wasn’t going to be cheap.

“I needed to buy an observation hive and pay for festivals – so that’s when we created Three Little Birds,” she said.

Three Little Birds Farm, a business run by the Carlson family, helps them sell the bee products Carlson works so hard to supply. To pay for the project, she made baked goods, lip balms, lotions, candles, vapor rub and more using honey and beeswax. When she started putting her honey in jars, she had no idea it would win multiple awards at the fair.

“The first year I did it, I entered in a very fruity honey and I wasn’t sure I’d get anything, but I won a blue ribbon in the junior category,” she said. “From there, I was like, ‘I’m gonna enter more next year.’ So I entered three different categories in 2017 and won ribbons for my light and dark honey – Best in Show and Junior Sweepstakes – plus an additional blue ribbon for my other honey.”

Carlson said she hoped that entering her honey in the fair would help get her name out there as a beekeeper. That, it did. She ended up scoring an internship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Louisiana right after she graduated high school.

“I work at the research center, learning lab work and watching experiments – it’s been a lot of fun so far,” Carlson said. “I really want to end up helping honey bees in research projects in the future.”

But you don’t have to get a job with the USDA to help. Carlson said just being aware of how you treat the bees can make a huge difference.

“You shouldn’t be scared of them – if you see one, don’t swat at it,” she said. “Don’t be so adventurous and pick it up, but just leave it alone because if it stings you, it dies.”

Try to find some of Molly’s honey at a competition in the fair this year!

About Teacup

Hey there! I'm Teacup, otherwise known as Molly. I'm a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in media & journalism and I'm so excited to work as the public relations intern at the fair this year! I believe there's nothing better than the sense of community the State Fair so effortlessly brings to all its attendees, though the teacup ride and caramel apples come as close runner-ups.

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