Olen Danielson, Jillian Nelson, Greta Danielson and Karl Danielson look at dead bees at one of the stops on a bee hive presentation during a practice tour Thursday afternoon.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Everything seemed normal in Soldotna on Thursday. A drive down a gravel road revealed fall colors on the trees with Mount Redoubt towering in the background. The day’s tone would change, however, for the curious motorists who followed some yellow signs on the road.
Pulling into the driveway at the end of the signs revealed some creatures suited top to bottom in white, impenetrable armor and helmets not revealing what may be underneath. The creatures held canisters that spewed a thick aromatic smoke.
Although out of the ordinary, there was no need to fear.
“Hi. Welcome to Beehive Tours,” said one of the suited creatures.
This creature turned out to be an 11-year-old named Noelle Schmitter-Schrier.
Noelle was one of four kids raised with a healthy diet of 4-H and home schooling who collectively run a business called Beehive Tours.
Noelle, along with her sister, Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, and Ehren and Sawyer Rickman, turned a school beekeeping activity into a venture that filled their piggy banks last summer.
The idea was spawned when the Schmitter-Schriers had some learning stations about beekeeping at the Soldotna Montessori Charter School, Noelle said.
“We thought it would be cool to teach people about bees,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of information classes that are hands-on especially.”
Participants in Thursday's bee hive tour don protective suits to get a closer look at honey bees at work.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The tours are about 3 1/2 hours and include nine learning stations about bees. Participants have the chance to make honey, extract honey from a honeycomb and even visit a beehive.
So what’s with the suits?
“I don’t want to look like a flower,” Vienna said as bees milled around in an observatory beehive nearby.
According to Sawyer Rickman, one of the business partners, they only conduct the tours in the fall when the bees harvest their honey. He pointed out that it is not good having the honey sitting out in the yard because of bears.
While the students have a good time putting on the workshops, they also have fun running the business.
Ehren Rickman said they drum up business by making flyers and putting them up around town. He added that the tours are open to all age groups.
Beehive Tours was not officially open for business Thursday. However, there was an audience that included adults all the way down to kindergartners. The business partners were polishing their act with a test audience to get ready for the real tours that begin Monday and run until Sept. 18.
Last year, they attracted about 100 customers. Ehren said he is hoping for more this year.
“We want a lot of people,” he said.
The cost to attend a Beehive Tour is $30. Space is limited, but slots are still available. To sign up, call 262-7852.
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