Friday, December 18, 2009

The ABCs of Beekeeping

In January, I’ll conduct a beginner’s beekeeping course in Doylestown, PA. It will just be the ABC’s…not the ABCs’ and XYZ’s of beekeeping. The latter is the title of a famous and (still published ) book on beekeeping. The registration information is posted on the web . Or you can give us an old fashioned phone call at Penn State Extension, 215-345-3283 and request a brochure if you think you are interested.

Interest in bees and beekeeping has grown tremendously in the last several years. Probably as a result of the widely publicized Colony Collapse Disorder. As a beekeeper, I find it very heartening that so many folks pay attention to this and are concerned.

Interest in honey bees is not new. It is a hobby that has been entertaining and rewarding people for thousands of years. A Philadelphian named Lorenzo Langstroth really got things going when he invented the modern hive with movable and interchange parts in the 1850’s.

Apparently some folks are so concerned about the plight of bees that they want to start hobby beekeeping. I imagine that for others, there was a dormant desire to learn about bees that was awakened by bees in the news. Some gardeners feel that they need to keep bees to ensure pollination for their crops… especially as they notice fewer and fewer honeybees visiting flowers. But our native pollinators (honey bees are not native to North America) actually do a very good job of moving pollen in small gardens. It is the big-time fruit and vegetable producers that really need honey bees. Maybe you’ve heard that more than a million colonies of bees go to California each spring for almond pollination.

There are about 25,000 honey bee colonies in Pennsylvania and 2 million nation-wide. Most of these are maintained by commercial beekeepers. On the other hand, my estimate is that more than 95 % of all beekeepers are hobbyists. If you have an eye for the stacks of 16 by 20 inch boxes that kept bees generally live in, you’ll finds bee hives everywhere. City beekeepers are common in San Francisco, New York, Paris and most cities.

My bee course will be conducted on four consecutive Tuesday evenings beginning on Janaury 26. Interestingly, My co-hort, Tom Butzler, in Clinton County Extension, will be conducting a bee keeping course on- line in January also. Since you are on the web maybe this also appeals to you. Or do both! For more info on Tom's course see this.

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