Waldo’s blog — first tiny steps into beekeeping
At times growing up felt like living in a petting zoo (mice, rats, rabbits, hamsters, ponies, sheep, donkeys and a beloved dog), but I don’t remember any training beyond perhaps a short book or a quick word with the pet shop owner. Bees seem different, though, so I’ve started an introduction to beekeeping course, comprising theory and practical sessions.
I hope that this semi-regular column of my journey will remind old hands of the joys and tribulations of starting out as a beekeeper and reassure new starters that you’re not alone.
So, to my experience. The first step was to find my local beekeeping association and sign up for a course. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Finding out information about my nearest local association was not straightforward. Despite advertising beginner courses on their website, and despite repeated emails and ‘phone calls, I failed completely to discover the dates or sign up to their putative course.
Back to the drawing board. Luckily I found another beekeeping group just a little further from home and have joined their course.
Speaking with the course tutors, it was clear that a common problem for local associations is a lack of younger beekeepers coming ‘through the ranks’. Any groups facing this problem (I suspect there are many) should take a good look at their website and communication strategy to ensure that wannabe beekeepers aren’t being missed due to a lack of information.
The first session was a fascinating overview of the honeybee and her importance in the ecosystem. This included mention of drone congregation areas, on which I considered myself an expert, having read about them on this website!
We were also shown the key equipment a beekeeper needs and discussed the importance of hygienic behaviour such as using disposable gloves and changing them between hives or (at least) between apiaries.
We covered a huge amount but the main lesson was how much more there remains to learn; it’s going to be a busy (and interesting) few months.
Stay tuned for more updates, especially from April, when we are let loose on real bees to show what we’ve learned!
The name of this column is inspired by Waldo McBurney who, in 2006, was recognised as America’s ‘oldest worker’. His profession: beekeeping.