|Honeybee on onion flower|
In recent years, much attention has turned to the humble honeybee. This insect is responsible for every third bite of food we consume and, yet, is easily taken for granted due to its small size and the lack of education on how our food is grown.
From colony collapse disorder, environmental toxins and a lack of biological diversity, people are becoming more educated on the threats to honeybees and other pollinators. Hobby beekeepers are popping up everywhere, and this is great news! Similar to the benefits of small, localized farms over massive, industrialized agriculture, hobby beekeepers can often have a greater impact at a local level and are able to experiment with management techniques more easily than large beekeepers.
If you are interested in raising bees this year, you would be wise to go ahead and order beekeeping equipment and, most importantly, the bees themselves. Due to the growing interest in beekeeping, many suppliers sell out before spring arrives, so be sure and call around to check on availability. There are several suppliers nearby that sell bees and equipment: Beech Mountain Beekeepers Supply in Avery County and Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and Miller Bee Supply in Wilkes County. Local beekeepers and clubs may have other resources as well.
There are many excellent resources for learning about beekeeping. NC State University has general information located on the website http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/entomology/apiculture/. Publications like Bee Culture and American Beekeeping Journal are commonly recommended, as are organizations like the Eastern Apiculture Society and the American Beekeeping Federation. Locally, the Watauga County Beekeepers Association is an excellent resource for educational workshops and information specific to keeping bees in the High Country. There are too many books to list on the topic of beekeeping, however First Lessons in Beekeeping by Keith Delaplane and The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture: An Encyclopedia of Beekeeping seem to be local favorites.
The most important thing is to ask questions from other beekeepers, for there are numerous answers to the same question and it’s essential to learn from the experience of others. The Watauga County Beekeepers begin monthly meetings beginning on March 1, 2011 at 7PM at the Agricultural Conference Center in Boone and meet on the first Tuesday of each month through October. You can also follow them on the web: http://wataugabeekeepers.org/
As beekeepers like to say, “May all your supers be full” as your enter into this fascinating hobby!