Dear Jerry Hayes:
I just finished reading your recent article in Bee Culture Magazines regarding the number of beekeepers joining local Beekeeper Clubs. All of what you described is exactly what I have experienced at two different bee clubs near Charlotte, North Carolina.
In the Spring of 2021, I signed up for an Apiary Beekeeper class. It lasted about two months, costing $300. Upon completion, we took a state bee exam. Upon receiving a passing grade, I got a certificate stating that I am a certified Apiarist in the state of North Carolina.
In late March of that year, I was given a ten frame hive full of bees with two super to place on top when needed. I was handed a live hive, given a handshake and a verbal support of “Good Luck.” At first, I was a little intimidated by the bees and being stung. Eventually, I got over that and became comfortable with examining my very first, new colony.
Spring and Summer passed with very little production of honey from the bees. I added one super, checked again in ten days – no honey, no brood and I could not identify the queen. I called one of the board members of the club to see if he would give me some advice.
I mentioned that I have been unable to locate the queen and asked if I could request a new one from the club President. He stated, “No. That was not an option. Locate a provider and buy one.” I asked, “Where could I get a queen?” He said, “I don’t know! Stop b****ing, you figure it out. I don’t have enough time to take care of my bees and take care of yours.”
THAT IN A NUTSHELL IS WHY THERE ARE ONLY FIVE PERCENT OF MOST BEEKEEPERS THAT JOIN A LOCAL CLUB. THE CLUBS ADVERTISE, TEACH YOU TO PASS THE STATE EXAM, HAND YOU A BEEHIVE, THEN PUSH YOU OUT THE DOOR AND WISH YOU GOOD LUCK. “OH, AND BY THE WAY, DON’T FORGET TO PAY YOUR ANNUAL CLUB DUES.”
I have been doing this now for three years, going into my fourth year. During this time, I have watched many videos, attended state and local classes, listened to Dr. Tarpy of UNC during state meetings, read many books with great articles and my questions are still unanswered. To date, I have lost and replaced five hives, spent about $2,500 in bees and equipment and still have little to show for my efforts. I have done all the Varroa mite treatments and tests, treated for hive beetles, replaces queens, you name it.
ON the bright side, I trapped a swarm of feral bees two years ago. To my delight, the colony has doubled in size, survived a Winter, filled itself with brood and produced two supers of honey. This leads me to believe that the commercial queen producers may have messed up the gene pool of domesticated bees where they cannot cope with Varroa mites and other diseases. Just my opinion.
With all that said, I think and act like a young person but I’m not. My goal is to pass beekeeping along to my granddaughter and hopefully become a successful mentor to someone else. I will study and become a Master Beekeeper as long as money, health and father time keeps me around. My intent is to keep the world productive by adding to the bee population and bring proactive to humanity.
Thanks again for the articles and questions you print in Bee Culture Magazine.