In Georgetown, people know bees.
Decked out in traditional garb worthy of the Williamson County Area Beekeepers Association honey queen—a white protective full-body suit, a black silk beauty-pageant sash, and a glittering tiara placed atop her brown hair—Meghan Cantlon practices an introduction for the documentary that will feature her.
The honey queen acts as official spokeswoman for local beekeepers and advocate for the bees themselves. Cantlon came into her position this past March. According to Jimmie Oakley, second vice president of WCABA, folks listen to her message. Despite Cantlon’s extensive knowledge of honey bees, Oakley is the real expert in the field. The older man, not much taller than Cantlon, is heavily involved in the public image of WCABA as well as the Texas Beekeeping Association. He tries to be at every event where Cantlon appears. Including today’s affair in Georgetown, the Red Poppy Festival. With large photo posters to help her illustrate her talking points, a frame of bees on display behind Plexiglas, and bottles of her organization’s honey to sell, Cantlon presented the beekeeping business to the public.
In her bee yard, Cantlon’s tiara is replaced by a mask. Armed with a smoker that looks like an old tin can topped with a funnel and a bellow on its side, she and her mother march out toward their three hives. The smoke makes the bees think that their hive is on fire, Cantlon explained, using a level-like tool to pry the top off the first of her three hives. The bees will all gorge themselves on honey in anticipation of leaving the hive, which they believe is about to be destroyed. With their stomachs full of honey, the bees are gentler and it’s difficult for them to bend their abdomens and sting their keepers.
Though fairly new to the beekeeping community, Cantlon is accustomed to the daily possibility of being stung, though in reality she has come to expect a bee sting only once or twice a year. She had to overcome some apprehensions when she started out in 2002. That year, Cantlon won the Ed Wolfe Memorial Scholarship, which WCABA sponsors each year to promote interest for beekeeping in young people.
Now that she has been crowned queen, Cantlon has ambitions of one day competing against other girls to become the Texas honey queen. For now, however, her focus is on gaining experience and exposure as the local honey queen and perfecting her royal presence.