Beekeeping can be a rewarding hobby

Published 9:16 am Thursday, October 12, 2017

By Ian Westwood

For the Enterprise

All beekeepers can remember the first time they open up a bee hive and pull a frame loaded with bees, brood and honey. It’s a fantastic experience to witness, first hand, one of the greatest, and oldest, working social systems on the planet.

For most people, the initial response when bees and other summer stingers are around is to give them a wide berth, and the belief that beekeeping is just a concept that appeals only to other, quite strange people.

But let’s remember the natural order of things and that beekeeping and gardening are inexorable partners.

Squash, apples, cucumbers, melons and strawberries are just a handful of the thousands of crops that rely on bee pollination. And, of course, there’s the honey. A single hive can produce as much as 50 to 100 pounds of this sweet, golden elixir each year.

These days beekeeping is a hot topic. Perhaps because of the increasing popularity of homesteading and raising one’s own food and the desire to connect more closely with the natural world, or as a consequence of the widespread publicity about the worldwide plight of the honey bee.

Local beekeeping clubs such as the Davie County Beekeepers Association, right here in Mocksville, and online forums are flourishing and beekeeping classes fill up quickly. These are all good signs because although raising bees is a fascinating, fun, rewarding and highly educational hobby, it also requires planning, knowledge and a modest investment in time and money to be successful.

One of the biggest challenges for beekeepers over the past few years has been the steep rise in the incidence of a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD); the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of an entire colony (hive) of bees. The winter of 2012/2013 was particularly difficult with some commercial beekeepers losing up to half of their hives to this disorder, the cause of which is still not fully understood and is commanding significant research funds to halt.

The best way to get started is to join a local beekeeping group where you will have access to experienced beekeepers, available and willing to share their experiences in preparing you for setting up your own hive in the new year.

The beekeeping course here in Mocksville in January is also of great value to the new, and experienced beekeepers alike. Davie’s experienced beekeepers can provide a wealth of advice and assistance and will also let you watch as they work their own hives.

There are also many books, blogs and videos available for you to learn as much as you can about the habits of the honeybee, though beekeeping is very much a hands-o’ hobby in which practical learning and experience is so important.

If you are interested in beekeeping as a hobby, then by joining us and speaking to your local experts, and learning some of the basic ‘ins and outs’ of this wonderful interest over the next few weeks, this will ensure you have time to gear up for your first bee hive next spring.

Here are few things to consider before deciding to get your own bee hive:

• Local regulations – Depending on where you live find out if there are any restrictions.

• How will your neighbors react? Contrary to popular belief, the honeybee should not be lumped together with other summer stingers such as wasps and yellow jackets. Part of beekeeping is the education of people around us on the importance and habits of the honeybee. If you have near neighbors, be considerate of their fears and enquire if any of them has a true allergy to bee stings.

Bees are quite happy to be left alone and will be unlikely to sting unless provoked. Unlike wasps, which can sting multiple times, a honeybee can only sting once and the process kills it. Stinging is suicide for the honeybee.

Are you willing to commit the time?

Compared to many hobbies beekeeping requires minimal time commitment. Many beekeepers visit their hives weekly to check on the quality of the queen (based on her egg laying habits) and inspecting, and troubleshooting, for mites and diseases.

More time is required in educating yourself about bees so you will learn to recognize issues and conditions, and to anticipate and plan maintenance activities throughout the year.

In summary, beekeeping is a highly rewarding hobby and can provide a wonderful diversion from today’s stressful existence. The honeybee and its colony have interesting habits and a complex, and highly ordered society. Tending your bees can be a calming and relaxing experience. And, in the end, there’s the honey.

If becoming a newbee beekeeper is of interest to you, then why not join us at our next meeting. The Davie County Beekeepers Association ( DCBA) club meets on the second Thursday of each month at Mocksville First Baptist Church, 388 N. Main St. (opposite the library). Meetings start at 7 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Visit our stand at The Oaks Festival on Oct 14.

Ian Westwood is a member of the Davie County

Beekeepers Association.