So You Want to Be a Beekeeper?

 

Its that time of year. My yearly Beekeeping Class. This is my third year attending NorthEast Kansas Beekeeping Association (NEKBA) which is our local beekeeping organization, in my neck of the woods.  Each year the group hosts an intensive 2 day training program geared to the beginner, as well as the experienced beekeeper. They provide a variety of knowlegible speakers, this year being Dr Clarence Collison, a Beekeeping Specialist, Emeritus Professor/Dept. Head of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University.

This is my third year attending and I can honestly say I always learn something new about beekeeping. It gives my a chance to mingle with 300 or so of my fellow bee enthusiasts as well as pick the brains of the many knowlegible and experienced beekeepers that comprise the group’s officers and core members.

The turnout this year was amazing. Over 230 registered participants who are either already beekeepers or plan to become beekeepers. Each year I ‘ve seen a real surge in interest of people keen to learn the art of beekeeping. And that is a good thing. With large scale bee operations suffering losses at or around 30%, new beekeepers are vital to ensure the survival of these amazing creatures. Besides, beekeeping is a versatile hobby, easily taliored to fit the needs of the rural farmer as well as the surburban gardener or a rooftop highrise. And the rewards of extracting and bottling honey is quite simply the icing on top of the cake.

Remember that bees, birds and bats pollinate about 35 percent of the world’s crop. Over 75 percent of fruit crops grown in North America are pollinated by Honey Bees. Our grocery store produce section would be pretty scarce without the industry of the Honey Bee. Bees are a critical lynchpin in the pollination cycle.

Understanding the biological makeup of the Honey Bee is a major step in ensuring its survival and the beekeeper is the first line of defense. Knowing how to inspect your hives, manage population and growth and recognize and treat disease is just part of the information you will recieve in your basic beekeeping training. The first year beekeeper may find this vast amount of information overwhelming. I certainly did, so it is important to establish a rapport with other experienced beekeepers.

Seasoned beekeepers love to talk bees and are amazingly willing to share their knowlege and techniques. Having a mentor or someone you can ask questions is an invaluable aspect of beekeeping.

So whether, you are a first-time beekeeper learning how to install a package or a 30 year veteran, there is always something to learn from bees. Check out your local beekeeping association for upcoming educational programs. Or if you are around here, check out http://nekba.org/

Remember there are many, “right ways to beekeeping.” although others might have a different methods, the continuing  health and survival of the Honey Bee is the utmost priority of all beekeepers.

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