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Beginning Beekeeping Class in Richmond, Va

Bees enjoying maple syrup in Winter

Winter Nectar Source

It’s been a wild Fall/Winter, to be sure. The weather has never really gotten into a good ‘winter groove’ and there are frequently times when it simply feels like Spring! Today, the temps are  currently approaching the mid-60’s…that’s about 25 degrees above the average High for this time of year in Richmond, Virginia. In truth, we always get a day that rises into the 50’s (at least) in January, but we really have yet to get any real Winter weather this year. We still have a few months to go, but it’s a far cry from last year. I really doubt that it’s going to be too bad.

What does this mean to the beekeeper? For one, folks call him about ‘swarms on the Maple trees’. As most beekeepers know, there is a zero percent chance that any hive is going to swarm in January. It may abscond because someone cut down the tree they were in or whatnot, but they are not going to be swarming. Add this bit of knowledge to the fact that I had already noticed the bees enjoying the sap coming out of my Maples and I was (hopefully) able to calm the fellow down. The woodpecker creates the holes and the sap (maple syrup) comes out when it warms up a bit. This draws the bees. Does this hurt the tree? As my Pop would say, ‘It didn’t help it any’, but I have never seen any longterm issue and my maples are huge (a good 4 to 6′ in width at the base.)

On a general, What’s going on note, we are ramping up the first Beginning Beekeeping class at the East Richmond Beekeepers Association. Over the past few years, I have received a lot of ‘come help me’ calls from folks in Richmond and the surrounding areas. When I get there, I have found that many of these folks (close to 75%) have actually attended another Beekeeping class held in our area. Sadly, their questions have always been very basic questions. This got me to thinking – I am willing to bet that these classes spend several days going over every single aspect of beekeeping. This is a worthy objective, but I believe that it causes some folks to miss the forest for the trees. In my opinion, there is a core bit of knowledge that a new beekeeper needs to know. This pretty much focuses on what to do with a hive from just before they get their Nuc/Package to about June or so. These early months are crucial. I postulated that maybe they were being taught too much at such an early stage. How about a class that really focuses on these early months with a follow up class (say in May) for some of the other information? So, I spearheaded a new class at ERBA.

December Dandilion Bloom

Who Says There is nothing blooming in December?

As a side benefit, I have really taken to a philosophy that merges Practical Beekeeping (as espoused by renown beekeepers such as Michael Bush) with Sustainable Beekeeping (heralded by Brother Adam, a beekeeper of yesteryear, but heavily promoted today about another esteemed beekeeper, Michael Palmer.) There are aspects to this philosophy that every beginning beekeeper should know. So, I decided to focus the class on this philosophy.

We start in February and I expect a great class! But, I plan to get a lot of anonymous feedback in case we miss the mark.

What’s going on in my hives? Well, many still have plenty of honey. I opened several hives today and actually pulled frames in the brood nest. Very little evidence of laying, actually, but tons of honey. All of this warm weather had me worried, but I guess the bees are holding their stores close to their vests. I also do not have any losses yet, but I am expecting them (if I get them) in the Feb/Mar timeframe. We have a fair number of dandilions blooming and they are bringing in some kind of red pollen (or were, in late December), so I am happy.

The cool thing is that the Big Fun Time in beekeeping is probably no more then 2 months away! Bonzai! I can hardly wait.

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