By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Anyone who’s ever wondered what it takes to keep their own beehives can learn all about it next month at “bee school.”
The Hoke County Beekeeper Association plans to host two days full of lessons and hands-on practical experience to teach newbies what all the buzz is about. The bee school will be held two Saturdays, October 15 and October 22, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Association president Carl Daniels explained what the introductory classes have to offer.
“A bee school is something that we offer for those that are interested in beekeeping to come and learn about it,” he said. “We teach very basic things, but it’s the introduction to beekeeping for those that have an interest but have no knowledge of it. We basically give them a rundown over the hours that we have…the morning is instructional and the afternoon is hands-on, we teach them the different aspects of what to expect for the first few months.”
The instructors will walk prospective beekeepers through topics like how to get started, the equipment beekeepers need and how to maintain beehives.
While it’s technically possible for anyone to buy a hive and find out what they’re doing through trial and error, learning beforehand how it all works could save money (and bees). Setting up beehives can be a significant investment, Hollowell said.
“One thing we really stress to the new beekeepers is that like any hobby that you can get into, it can become very expensive quickly, and unfortunately a lot of people fail to realize that. And then once they get involved with it they drop out in the first year,” he said. “We try to get them into our mentoring program to be mentored by somebody with the least amount of investment and this way they can determine if they want to jump in with both feet.”
“A lot of people think I can just get a beehive and put it out there and get 100 pounds of honey, it’s not going to happen, there’s a lot more to it than that.”
The Hoke County Beekeeper’s Association tries to run the bee school twice a year, in early spring and then again in fall. Although fall and winter are less active months for bees, it’s a good time to learn and prepare for the burst of activity that will happen next spring.
“We’re more into right now of preparing our hives for winter time and that’s just as important as starting them up. This is one thing that we will stress to new beekeepers, it’s not too late to do anything but to prepare them, more or less getting them ready,” Daniels said. “They do not hibernate, they stay alive the whole time, but to prepare them for winter and once spring comes they’ll be ready to roll because once they get into production, they won’t grow, they will explode in their growth in a very short amount of time.”
The association also offers further support for people who end up hoping to get their own beehives. They can arrange for an optional mentorship, one on one, between a prospective or new beekeeper and a more experienced beekeeper. The group has contacts with people in Hoke, Cumberland and Moore counties and can typically partner a newbie with someone who lives closer to them.
“We’ll work with them any way that they want,” Daniels said.
The bee school will be held at the Bobby Wright Hoke County Agriculture Building on Palmer Street in Raeford. There is a $35 fee to participate, which covers the cost of the class, book, mentorship and membership to the Hoke County Beekeeper Association. To sign up or for more information, contact the Hoke County Cooperative Extension office at (910) 875-3461. The next session of bee school will be held in February 2023.