CULLMAN – Ever play in a bed of clover when you were a child? If not, that might have been because the little blooms of the clover were almost always covered with honey bees, a sight not so common today.
Honey bees are one of the most important creatures on the planet. Not only do they produce honey for humans, but they are the means by which plants are able to pollinate, which is how they produce fruits and flowers, and even cotton.
These busy little creatures can outwork most anything or anyone. Because they are so important to our food supply, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System is offering classes on general beekeeping. The Beginning Beekeeping program begins this Tuesday, Feb. 7
The classes will meet on Tuesday evenings between the hours of 6-8 p.m. and present introductory information on biology, behavior and management of honey bee colonies, including pollination behavior and simple honey processing.
The class will provide students with information on basic biology and behavior of the common honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) including the honey bee caste system. It will also cover information on traditional hive equipment and protective equipment necessary to successfully open a bee colony. Students will explore pollination and how it contributes to what honey bees and native bees make to provide humans with food.
There will also be discussions on popular media topics of the day such as Africanized honey bees (Killer Bees), parasitic mite predation (Varroa mites) and incorporating bees into urban gardens.
At the end of the program, students will be able to gather and process surplus honey crops that could be used either as a human food source, start a small business enterprise, or both.
The goal of the class is to produce competent beekeepers, which will improve area crops, vegetable gardens and even community flowerbeds.
Class instructor, Dr. James Tew, assures students that nearly anyone can keep a hive or two of honey bees. “The vast majority of beekeepers are hobbyists who keep bees just for pleasure,” said Tew.
“As a sideline, hobby beekeeping can provide extra income if colonies are managed efficiently.”
If finding a good spot for your hive presents a problem, Tew advises finding a friendly farmer to place your colonies.
“If you enjoy biology, outdoor activities, woodworking, gardening, and animal care or if you are just looking for a sideline income, beekeeping will probably interest you,” said Tew.
Tew says one of the first questions he is always asked is about the upfront cost and the time involved.
“Beekeeping is not a particularly expensive hobby,” Tew explained. “It can be a profitable business as well as a source of pleasure and relaxation if you can withstand the occasional sting and if you are willing to take care of your bees.”
For the first meeting only, the beekeeping class will meet at the Morgan County Extension Office, 3120 Highway 36 W in Hartselle. The remaining classes with Tew will be a live simulcast broadcast at the North Alabama Agriplex, 1714 Tally Ho Street SW in Cullman.
Local beekeepers will be on hand to answer any questions following the lectures. The six sessions cost $50 and will include materials and refreshments.
For more information contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension Office, 256-737-9386.
What: Beginning Beekeeping Course
When: Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28 and March 7, 14
Where: Feb. 7: Morgan County Extension Office (3120 Highway 36 W in Hartselle)
(The Feb. 7 meeting will be a joint kick-off session with Dr. Tew presenting in person)
The last five classes will be held at both the Morgan County Extension Office and the North Alabama Agriplex (1714 Talley Ho Street SW in Cullman).
(The last five meetings will feature a live simulcast lecture by Dr. Tew with local beekeepers in the two locations available after the lecture to answer audience questions.)
Program cost: The six sessions will be $50
Dr. James E. Tew
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
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