DOBSON — The Surry County Beekeepers Association is again holding a beginning beekeeping school for those interested in learning the craft. According to Association President Charlie Askins, this is the third year the school has been held because of its popularity.
“Our first year we had 90 people call interested in the classes,” said Askins. “We took 65 in our first class. Last year I felt we weren’t going to get that many but more than 50 came out.”
Askins said he has been involved with the club for seven years and attracting new beekeepers to the organization is important for the bees and those drawn to care for them.
“There’s very few old faces in the club,” said Askins. “People are just like that. I’d like to see more middle-school-age kids in our group. I’d love to see us one day working with the Future Farmers of America anywhere including the county to keep things going.”
Askins said the rewarding, but expensive hobby can be a daunting task without proper preparation and he stressed how much a mentor can help novice beekeepers just starting out.
“What we offer is a good class for the basics. We will show how to set up a hive, how to build a hive, the different flowers bees in our area rely on,” added Askins. “We will also teach participants about the bee diseases prevalent locally and the prevention and treatment of diseases in bees.”
He said he has been involved with honeybees for 20 years and says mentoring is important for old as well as new hands. Askins said much can be learned helping out fellow beekeepers with their hives and highly recommends taking a basic class before committing to keeping the insects.
“It (beekeeping) is probably the most unscientific hobby there is,” said Askins. “People keep bees their whole lives and still learn from year to year different things. Beekeeping is a gentle hobby and you must be gentle with the bees.” He also said the wisdom of those veterans in this area would well serve new beekeepers.
Askins said he came to this area from Southern California where the climate insures a much longer season of nectar flows. In this area, nectar flows are much more fickle. He said he regularly worked for stands (hives) of bees in California with two deeps (large boxes on the bottom of the hive for housing bees) and six medium supers (medium-sized boxes used to give the bees a place to put extra honey). He remembered moving to the area with 15 gallons of spare honey left which he sold at the Autumn Leaves Festival.
“It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve lost my fear of bees and I’m totally relaxed around them now,” said Askins. “It takes control. I got started because I had an avocado grove and I thought the bees would be a good thing. I found out later avocados are self-pollinating and I didn’t need the bees.”
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agent Joanna Radford, who will teach a class at the school this year, is excited about the opportunity for new keepers to be certified if they completed the class and a written as well as a practical exam on the last day of class.
Radford said the certification is an important step for those who want to continue in the craft to become a master beekeeper and even to become a Master Craftsman Beekeeper. She said there are only a few such beekeepers in the state.
“We are lucky to have one Master Craftsman Beekeeper, Paul Madren, living in Surry County,” said Radford. “As a new beekeeper myself I have found them to be more interesting than I ever thought they would be. They are truly interesting to watch.”
She stressed that beekeeping is for ladies as well as the young and fits a wide range of different types of people.
“The majority of beekeepers in the association are older, but we do have young folks,” said Radford. “We need more of them and it is more important than ever to know the importance of bees.” She added that the honey is also a great benefit to the hobby as well as the improved yields from one’s garden. She said fellowship in a beekeeping association is also enjoyable because of the variety of interesting people to meet.
The Bee School is scheduled to begin on Feb. 25 at the N.C. Farm Bureau building in Dobson in the downstairs meeting room. The other classes are set for March, 4, 11, 18 and 25 from 7 to 9 p.m. The cost for registration is $35, which includes a study book and classroom instruction. The cost of an additional family member without the book is $25. Children 16 years and younger may attend free with a registered adult. Additional books are $10 each if available.
Persons may register by calling the Surry County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 325-8025.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.