Today I attended a “So you want to be a beekeeper?” class at the Reston Association Conference Center in Reston, Virginia. A beautiful fall day, so after dropping my darling daughter off so she could enjoy some horseback riding, I drove up to Reston for the class.
It didn’t start well; we were locked out of the conference room, and I was reminded of a package of bees as the group of around 25 of us gathered in the small entrance. Eventually the key showed up and we shuffled in.
Most of the material was familiar to me: types of bees, bee pests, beekeeping equipment, bee-friendly plans, and other topics. I suppose knowing this ahead of time is good, and I did enjoyed hearing it from the experts, Master Beekeepers no less. A number of facts I did not know, such as the fact that there were very few bee pests before 1980. This means that my grandfather never really had to deal with the diseases and mites that affect honey bees today.
The discussion of federal, state, and local regulations was also interesting. Bees are classified as livestock, so if your home owners association says you cannot have livestock, you may not be allowed to have bees. Fortunately this doesn’t apply to us, as one of our requirements when we moved to Virginia was to live outside an HOA. Apparently a good choice.
Another interesting fact is that Virginia allows small producers to resell products like honey directly to consumers. Such producers are required to have a sticker stating that the product was produced in an uninspected kitchen; and another that honey should not be given to children under 1. Not that I’m thinking of selling honey, mind you, I just wanted to know.
The hive discussion focused on Langstroth hives, in fact the presenter (Todd) said that he did not recommend the use of top bar hives for first-time beekeepers. I tried not to be too disappointed by this. I spoke with another keeper Pat afterwards, who seemed a little more open to the idea. There is a TBH expert Wyatt Mangum that lives in the area and Pat said that he has given beekeeping courses in the past on the use of top bar hives. I plan to send her an email and ask if this might be possible again.
The instructors also recommend having two hives so you can compare and contrast the progress of two colonies. I have been thinking about this anyways, though not sure what the second hive should be. There is an obvious advantage in having identical hives, but I really do not want to purchase a second hive. Will have to think about his.
The song “What’s the Buzz” is from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber. In the song, the apostles ask “What’s the Buzz?” and Jesus’ answer includes the phrase “Save tomorrow for tomorrow; Think about today instead.” Probably good advice for someone who won’t have any bees for many months.