This is my second year in the local community garden, Earthwise Society Garden and Farm in scenic Boundary Bay, BC. I finally felt I had my beeyard and beekeeping under control. I had decided in the winter that the 30 hives I ran in 4 beeyards in 2014 was too many for me to manage: I am the family home-maker and we’d gone short on hot meals and folded laundry (not to mention general tidiness) in 2014. The bees took all my time, and not in a nice way. I was racing from hive to hive, feeling out of control and never able to catch up and just enjoy the bees.
So my winter plan was to try my hand at making and selling spring nucs, thereby reducing my beeyard load down to a more pleasurable and manageable 10-15 hives. I love making new colonies and had made lots of nucs for myself in my noob swarm control methodology (hence the 30 colonies). But I had never offered them for sale. I consulted with a kindly mentor, Brian Campbell of Blessed Bee. He suggested if I felt my skills were under-market, to price my nucs accordingly. So I did, and the whole enterprise was a roaring success. Such a success that I decided my skills were not under-market after all, and I raised my prices to reflect that!
It was one of the many apprenticeships I have served in my journey as a beekeeper.
But side by side with me at Earthwise was another crop of apprentices: the farm interns and apprentices, there to learn organic, sustainable farming and market garden methods, adding to their agricultural resumés. They were, as a group, unusually drawn to the beeyard, and I decided to offer them an authentic Apprentice Beekeeping course, including practical experience, as a resumé builder and value add to their summer work experience.
Never pass up the opportunity to infect a new generation with the beekeeping bug!
Having just completed my Washington State Journeyman Beekeeper level, I felt confident I could put together a good Apprentice level course. And I did. Complete with an exam and certificate of completion upon a successful pass!
I went with web-based content to save us all the cost of printing out texts and the arduous task of typing in web links. There are so many fine resources on the web for beekeepers of all stages, it is a shame not to share and use them.
The aim of the course was to give these young beekeepers the critical information necessary to avoid becoming the 80% of beekeepers who give up on beekeeping within three years of tackling their first hive. Most quit because their bees keep dying. So the course was focused on colony health and survival, meeting weekly to discuss issues and questions.
In addition, I took all those colonies I had harvested repeatedly for nuc sales, and moved them into a newly cleared space in the garden. These colonies, now small, formed our first Student Apiary. They varied a bit from the very tiny (three frames and a queen) to the rather large (bees who, in spite of multiple rounds of queen rearing were still populous colonies…it was a great spring for queen rearing and colony building!). The twin objectives were to give the Apprentice beekeepers a hive to manage for the 7 weeks of the course (there is nothing like opening up your very own hive to spur bee learning!) and to build these weak colonies up to overwintering size and strength.
We also ran one extra colony, headed by a completely useless queen (named Queen Aergia, for the Greek goddess of sloth). Aergia gave us all a look at what happens when a queen hardly stirs herself to lay, but the workers mysteriously opt not to supercede her. Maybe she was damaged by Nosema? She was a source of lively and amused discussion.
It was a great experience for us all.
To explore the web based content created, here is the link to Newbees 2015!