Bee School!

Today was my last day of Bee School, the best school ever. 

For the past three Sundays I have spent the morning out at a property about 40 minutes from our place, learning all about being a beekeeper. The course was organised and hosted by the owners of our local plant nursery, Wicked Cackle and I signed up when I put my name down on the waitlist for bees last November. Goodness I’m really glad that I did! I have learnt so much in the past 3 weeks and feel reasonably confident to manage my two hives… which will be arriving in just a week or so from now, as my name has finally come up!

I had assumed that we would primarily be taught the things that I have read about in my (copious) bee books, but with the opportunity to ask questions. But boy did I underestimate those Wicked Cackle peeps!!! From the moment we arrived, we were suited up and out at the hives and it was full immersion the whole time. Amazing! We lit our smokers in the first half hour, and by the end of the first class we were off on our own (in pairs or little groups) opening the hives, pulling out each frame, checking for brood, nectar, honey and pollen, identifying the drones vs worker bees, and spotting the queen in each hive. I couldn’t believe that we were able to do all of that on our first day.

That was the pattern that we followed for each class - arrive, suit up, have a little chat and then light the smokers and head out to the hives. Over the course of the three weeks, we covered all the basics about hive types, what to look for in your hive, hive health and pests/diseases. We also talked about the costs of setting up hives and different ways to get started, and we were able to ask a lot of the “stupid” questions about this process, many of which I’ve wanted to ask but been too afraid to (which is why it has taken 5 years to get bees!). 

This week we learnt about honey harvesting. For me this is exciting, but it’s not the end game of beekeeping (or the bee-all and end-all, if you will). Of course I am super keen to produce my own honey for lots of different reasons (including hopefully helping my hubby's debilitating hayfever each spring and summer). But I also want to keep bees for the general health of our garden, for pollination of our fruit and veges, and (selfishly and primarily) for my own enjoyment. Honey is the awesome bonus from a hobby that I have been really excited about starting for several years.

I can’t emphasise enough how wonderful Bee School was. I think that anybody who wants to start out in beekeeping should take a short course in it. There was just so much information that I had read, often many many times in different books, but that I didn’t fully grasp until we discussed it in front of an open hive. Even today there were loads of things that I learnt that I am sure we were told in week one but that information-overload successfully blocked from my brain. I’m not sure that all short courses on beekeeping would be as immersive as the one run by Wicked Cackle, but if you can find one, DO IT! 

And just as a sidenote, our amazing, knowledgeable and rather hilarious teacher had the absolute BEST verbal tic (you know, the words you throw into lots of sentences when speaking off the cuff, along the lines of “um”, “like”, “ah”, “you know”)... His was “Hey presto!”. Isn’t that brilliant?!?!? Really hard not to smile when you are learning new stuff and hearing lots of “Hey presto” at the same time. I’ll miss hearing that every Sunday morning :)

Anybody in the Canberra/Bungendore region who is interested in the course and wants more specific info or contact details, feel free to email me: han{at}treediaries{dot}com . Also, thank you to those lovely readers who contacted me via email this week to let me know that you can't comment on my blog! Silly of me to ask for reading suggestions and not realise that there is no way to share them... I will look in to comments, but in the meantime please feel free to email me or get in touch via Instagram!