Local libraries sweeten a beginning beekeeper’s course.
NEW RIVER VALLEY–As a taste of honey for newbies, New River Valley Beekeepers’ Association is presenting “So, You Want To Be a Beekeeper” sessions at regional library branches (Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Floyd, and Shawsville) throughout January 2018.
No pre-registration is necessary for these free, Saturday afternoon sessions designed to prepare those curious about beekeeping with the information to help them decide whether beekeeping is an undertaking right for them.
The hour-long sessions will address the nuts-and-bolts of getting started in beekeeping: the costs, which can be significant, how to acquire bees, the equipment needed: suits, veils, and tools, and the dedicated outlay of time.
Less pragmatic, though, the presentation makes clear that starting your beekeeping experience by joining an organization like the NRVBA, provides a new beekeeper with education, skill-building and support – a colony of others sharing knowledge, know-how and interest of the science and craft of beekeeping.
“Anybody can be a beekeeper,” Jerry Borger, a past-president of the NRVBA, and long-time beekeeper said.
He will host the Christiansburg Library event (1:30 p.m. Jan. 20) said. He’s standing among his cluster of hives in a young orchard on Hightop Mountain. It’s 25 degrees, but wrapped in black landscaping fabric, the box-like hives are warm on the sunny slope facing southwest over the Roanoke’s North Fork far below. He began raising bees 11 years ago when he planted the fruit trees.
“I recognized that if I’m going to be getting some fruit pretty soon, I’m on the side of a mountain, I don’t know whether I have any bees to pollinate them. I knew nothing about bees. I could spell “bee” two times out of three.”
People begin raising bees for many reasons: for pollination, or income from selling honey, beeswax, propolis (the sticky resin bees use to waterproof a hive), and even selling bees themselves.
There are more than 125,000 beekeepers in the United States like Borger and the other beekeepers presenting “So you want to be a beekeeper” according to the National Honey Board — hobbyists tending fewer than 25 hives and beekeeper number continue to rise.
“Likely because greater media attention on the challenges bees have been facing,” James Wilson, Virginia Tech Extension Apiculturist said.
He suggests increasing public awareness of colony collapse disorder, environmental stress, and habitat loss impacting honeybee populations.
Walking among Borger’s hives (surrounded by bear-discouraging electric fence), the craft of beekeeping requires skill and knowledge gained through time and beginners need practice and advice to help them start and then keep going. Luckily, the NRVBA is as social as a hive.
“Our club has started something that other local clubs don’t. We have our own teaching apiary. So we’ve go a half dozen hives, and many times during the summer we’ll announce, ‘Okay. Saturday or Sunday, anybody who wants to come and learn, do it.’ So the new beekeepers can come see the more experienced folks go through and the more experienced folks will talk about, ‘Okay, here’s what I see on this frame, here’s what we ought to do or everything looks great, or it doesn’t. Here’s what actions are necessary.’ And new beekeepers can see that and also ask questions that relate to their own hives.”
As a beekeeper, Borger has the humility that comes with experience.
“When I was a third-year beekeeper, I knew everything. Since then, I’ve found out how much there is, I’ve been going downhill ever since,” he said laughing. “I started roughly 11 years ago I’ve been a president of the NRVBA and for the past 7 or 8 years I’ve been teaching our beginner’s class.
The schedule for the sessions is:
Saturday, Jan. 13, 1:30 p.m., at the Blacksburg Library with presenters Bob Whiton and Glenn Buss.
Saturday, Jan. 20, 1:30 p.m. at the Jessie Peterman Memorial Library
Sunday, Jan. 21, 1:30 p.m. at the Meadowbrook Public Library with presenters Lisa and Pat Bower.
Saturday, Jan. 20, 1:30 p.m. at the Christiansburg Library with presenters Jerry Borger and Brian Murphy
The NRVBA Beginning Beekeeper course is held on two Saturdays, all day 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Feb.10 and April 7 and costs $60 per student. The cost covers a beginner’s book, course materials, and lunch, and additional family members who share the book and materials cost $30.
The course will be held at 220 Price Hall on the Virginia Tech Campus and will include (weather permitting) a hands-on session in the NRVBA apiary.
Seating is limited, so the deadline for pre-registration is Jan. 31 or when the class is full.
For more information, contact Jerry Borger, 382-1798 or visit www.nrvba.org.