Lainey Bell of Winslow has been crowned the 2024 American Honey Princess by the American Beekeeping Federation. Bell, 18, is seen Wednesday at Swan’s Honey in Albion, where she works, and where she discovered her deep love of beekeeping. As the first Honey Princess from Maine, she’ll now look to spread that love to the rest of the country as an ambassador for the industry. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — For a young female beekeeper, there are few achievements as sweet as being named the American Honey Princess.

The American Beekeeping Federation selects two young women each year to serve as its Honey Queen and Princess. They act as ambassadors for beekeeping by visiting rodeos, fairs, legislative sessions and other events to educate the public about the importance of honeybees and advocate on behalf of the beekeeping industry.

Lainey Bell, an 18-year-old student from Winslow, received her crown earlier this year after a nationwide search. A beekeeper and honey packager at Swan’s Honey in Albion for more than three years, she is also the first Honey Princess from Maine.

Her selection is important, she said, as New England has not historically had a strong beekeeping community. Of America’s roughly 200,000 beekeepers, less than 1% are in Maine. Through her newfound royalty, she aims to change that.

“Our job is to uplift the beekeeping industry,” she said. “It’s important to have that community feel. You’re supporting someone’s livelihood.”

Bell has worked for three years at Swan’s Honey, one of the largest bee farms in Maine. They provide pollination for dozens of farms across the state with their roughly 4,000 hives and process all their honey on site in Albion.


In addition to being a reigning monarch, Bell is a first-year student at the University of Southern Maine. She is a goalkeeper for the school’s field hockey team and is on an accelerated prelaw track while majoring in political science.

She was introduced to beekeeping at age 15 by a friend at the farm and says she found her passion almost immediately.

“There aren’t many jobs who hire 15-year-olds, but I had a friend who worked on the farm, told me to fill out an application, and I did,” Bell said. “I’ve been passionate about beekeeping ever since.”

Beekeepers have been naming a Honey Princess and Honey Queen for over 60 years, though the role has evolved over time.

As the number of both honeybees and beekeepers in the U.S. has fallen in recent years, program organizer Anna Kettlewell says the queen and princess have worked to generate interest in an already small industry.

“It’s a niche industry, beekeeping, and this is a way to promote the industry,” she said. “Our queen and princess now do media interviews, meetings with government officials, working at fairs and festivals, visiting farmers markets, all across the country.”


Indeed, more people have been taking up beekeeping as a hobby in recent years. A report from the Washington Post indicates that the industry has surged in popularity over the last 15 years, a trend that Kettlewell aims to keep going through the Honey Queen Program.

“Honeybees have been in the news a lot,” Kettlewell said. “We’ve had a decline in honeybees, and what we try to do is promote beekeeping as an important industry. We want people to be educated if they’re interested in becoming beekeepers.”

American Honey Princess Lainey Bell at Swan’s Honey in Albion. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Since receiving the title, Bell’s travels have taken her to the Midwest for media events and public appearances, including presentations to thousands of people at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. She will be hitting the road again next week, traveling to events in California, Idaho and Texas again over the next month.

Though the princess’ job is to advocate for the honey industry as a whole, Bell says she has one message she tells every person she speaks to: “Buy local honey.”

Beekeeping may be alive as a hobby, but Bell aims to keep it thriving as an industry. Along with a decrease in honeybee populations, she says many local bee farms are struggling to survive alongside larger food companies, who often undercut smaller farms with lower prices and wider distribution.

“Some of the bigger companies dilute their honey and they put in additives and substitutes to make it cheaper and to produce more of it,” Bell said. “That’s not great for smaller farms, who often have a little more expensive products because of that.”

Part of the way beekeepers are combatting that is by building community between one another. That effort is even more important in a state like Maine, Bell said, where beekeeping is still emerging from being primarily a hobby.

Bell said she hopes to change that through her role as the Honey Princess by inviting and welcoming others into the beekeeping community she’s found a home in.

“It’s just amazing to see so much life right before your eyes,” she said. “It’s been very accepting. The future of beekeeping looks good.”

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