Deena C. Bouknight, Contributing Writer
For those interested in beekeeping, there is a two-day “school” March 9 and 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. hosted by the Macon County Beekeepers Association (MCBA). Explained current association president, Katie Wall, who has been keeping bees for six years, “This is a basic beginner beekeeping course for anyone interested in becoming a beekeeper or learning about bees and beekeeping.”
Wall said the two-day school will cover hive components, installing bees, keeping bees safe and healthy, and much more. She and other members of MCBA will assist current vice president, Larry Cooper, who oversees instruction for the classes. Wall has been involved in the school the last seven years and has primarily taught an informational segment on the products of the hive; besides honey, hives offer beeswax, pollen, venom, etc. that is nutritional and/or medicinal.
“We do this school in the spring because that’s generally when hives are started and when the bees are available,” said Wall. She encourages those interested in becoming beekeepers to take the classes and then spend the year learning about bees and observing – before establishing a hive. “I even tell them to take the class again the next year to get a refresher, and then jump in.”
In the past, between 20 and 30 have attended bee school. While the first day of instruction involves much of the basics, the second day is “exciting,” said Wall, because students test their knowledge by handling hives at an apiary, which houses apis mellifera, the genus name for honey bees. Individuals just interested in the beekeeping process are encouraged to attend the school as well.
“On the second day, March 16, students have a chance to manipulate the bee hive, take out the frames, light the smoker, inspect the hive …,” said Wall. “It’s very much a hands-on day.”
Students serious about becoming beekeepers should invest in bee-wear. But MCBA has extra bee suits for those who do not own one. “Those who do not have a suit will be kept far enough away from the bees on the second day,” said Wall.
Another aspect of the bee school involves awareness.
“We want the public to understand how to nurture plants, to be mindful of insecticide use, and to know that habitats can be more natural and not resemble a golf course,” said Wall, adding that a National Resources Defense Council report found that “cross-pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without bees to spread seeds, many plants — including food crops — would die off.”
She stated further that a detailed article to inform and possibly motivate future beekeepers appeared in a 2013 edition of Time magazine titled “The Plight of the Honeybee: Mass deaths in bee colonies may mean disaster for farmers – and your favorite foods.”
MCBA has about 100 members, with about 50 active at regular meetings. Members include beekeepers with one hive for personal use to many hives to produce honey to sell. However, there are also members who “don’t have a hive but just love bees,” explained Wall.
She added, “Bee keeping is a very therapeutic hobby … to be out in the yard manipulating 50,000 to 60,000 insects. To determine their needs. They’re not pets, but it’s a calming, methodical experience to work bees.”
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office in Macon County is located at 193 Thomas Heights Road in Franklin. Cost for the bee school is $40 per person or $50 per couple; cost includes a bee basics book, breakfast, snacks, and lunch both days. There is no charge for current Macon County Beekeepers Association members. For more information, or to register, email Larry Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-371-2101.
MCBA will also celebrate World Bee Day May 20, and the organization provides resources and information about beekeeping and bee protection at the Annual Macon County Fair in September.