Low-hanging fruit, that title, I know.
On Saturday, my sister and I attended a short course beekeeping class offered twice a year by UF/IFAS. We had missed the spring class by a week or so, but found the fall (such as it is) date early enough and got ourselves registered. I was a bit concerned about the class going forward, as the registration form indicated if less than 20 people registered, the class would be cancelled. That worry was for naught, as by my count there were almost 30 people in attendance, split evenly between men and women. There were several people from the Northeast Florida Honeybee Association in attendance as well: all older men, all incredibly friendly, and all hilarious.
We’ve discussed having bees on the ranch several times over the years, and now we’re ready to move forward. The class itself covered various aspects of keeping bees, from hive structure to honeybee activity, splitting hives, and diseases and pests. Most of the things under discussion were things I already knew from prior research, but it was great to be able to hear from real, live beekeepers instead of reading about things in a book or from the web.
The Clay County IFAS office keeps bees on the fairgrounds, and has a honey house on the property as well. It was there that they had set a demonstration hive with open, paned sides back in April during the fair, and the bees were still there, still alive, and we had a chance to see the activity – and spot the (unmarked) queen.
After a full day of class, we’re more ready than even to get some bees around here. I’m hoping it will improve some of the plant-related issues we’ve been having, particularly with things like melons and squashes, and of course there is the potential for honey to be robbed from the hive. We were excited enough to consider adding bees now, but it appears that almost everyone has no bees for sale during the fall. Waiting until spring seems to be the only option, but that will allow us to get all the equipment we need and have it on hand for the big day when that day arrives.