Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Introduction to Beekeeping in Vancouver Class

"Beekeeper" by Ivan Kramskoy 1872

     It's spring which means the blossoms are blooming and the bees are buzzing.  I held off prepping my soil for planting for a few days because it was covered in purple deadnettle which the honey bees were enjoying.  Every year we grow food for the Vancouver Foodbank so are busy planting seeds and seedlings.  Last week I delivered some late season (September-October) dark, flavorful Goldenrod - Aster honey to the Vancouver Foodbank.  Half of the honey from our garden hives goes to the Foodbank and half to Cottonwood Community Garden.

Bees enjoying Goldenrod Aster

     Every year in May we hold "Introduction to Beekeeping in Vancouver" classes.  Last year because of the demand we held 5 classes.  The classes are not meant to take the place of a full beekeeping course but rather to inform you of what to realistically expect in your first few years of beekeeping in Vancouver.

     A recent study revealed that over 70% of beekeepers quit within the first 3 years.  Having observed this through the years I believe the reason is loss of bee colonies and being overwhelmed with that challenge.  I believe this is because some people enter into beekeeping too quickly and are not properly prepared for the dedication of time and continuous learning that is required to be a competent beekeeper.  Also, new beekeepers often do not have the support needed to deal with problems that arise which can be aided through a beekeeping network or group.  The goal of this class is not to discourage you or take the place of a full beekeeping course but to assist you and better prepare you in your decision to become a beekeeper.

     We have a beekeeping cooperative at Cottonwood Community Garden and are faced with the challenge of colony loss this year.  Our old apiary was surrounded by fast growing trees which over a few years shaded our hives.  Bees, being cold blooded are dependent on the sun to warm the hive and begin their daily activity based on how quickly the hive warms up.  The queen lays eggs based on the amount of pollen being brought in.  As a result many of our colonies were weak and unable to survive both mites and wasps.  In response we have moved our apiary to a sunny location in the garden and are planting a pollinator garden around the hives.  We have decided to embrace the challenge. 

Honey Bee eggs and larvae
     The "Introduction to Beekeeping in Vancouver" course will provide you with a very basic overview of  honey bees and beekeeping and answer all of your questions.  The class is about 2 hours in length and as it is held outside is weather dependent.  We keep the class small so that everyone can have if they wish an intimate experience with the bees so reservation is necessary.  There is no cost and we provide the veil and gloves.  Our classes are held at Cottonwood Community Garden in Strathcona Park.  To reserve a spot in our "Introduction to Beekeeping Class" contact us at strathconabeeat gmaildo tcom.  The first class will be held on Saturday, May 21st from 10am to 12 noon. 

      All of theory needed to be a beekeeper is available for free online.  A good start is "Beekeeping 101" which is an assortment of books, videos and a course from the University of California.  Our Beekeepers' Library is also a good source of information.  While theory is important the practical application and guidance of experienced beekeepers is more so.  We look forward to seeing you at our beekeeping class.

"Being with Bees" Kurt Leibich 1869


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