January 20, 2010

As Kentucky waits for spring, and honeybees cluster for warmth and food within their hives, beekeepers take time to plan and prepare for the next season. This is also an ideal time for them to learn more about their craft, so University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension offices, the Kentucky Apiarist's office and local beekeeping clubs are offering beekeeping schools from now through March 13 around the state.

Interest in beekeeping has grown over the past few years. Greg Whitis, agriculture and natural resources extension agent in McCreary County, said people came from 15 Kentucky counties and Tennessee to attend the last school offered in McCreary County two years ago. He expects a similar draw this time for the one-day Southeast Beekeeping School Feb 20 in Stearns.

"There's been a lot of coverage of the honeybee on the national level," he said. "And people are wanting to go back to maybe raising their own honey. There's been, in the last couple years, more and more people coming in (to the extension office) or calling to say ‘I've been thinking about getting some bees.' And it's just not in my county. It's statewide."

But potential beekeepers have to consider several things before leaping into the field unprepared. That's why Whitis will teach the session "So You Want to be a Beekeeper" during the Southeast Beekeeping School.

"That's for people who do not have bees; they're just thinking about having bees," he said. "There are things you need to think about before you get them."

Anyone interested in beekeeping will find a great many education opportunities available in the state, including 27 local beekeeping associations as well as a statewide organization. Local associations offer support to new beekeepers, and the state beekeeping association focuses on education in many of their meetings.

Participants in the Southeast Beekeeping School may choose four sessions from a list of 20 pertaining to disease and pest control, feeding, extraction, and spring and winter management techniques, among others. Extension agents, experienced beekeepers, and faculty from several area colleges and universities will teach the sessions. Whitis said the school offers sessions for both novice and experienced beekeepers and anyone interested in the field will get valuable information by attending.

"The day of your grandpa's beekeeping is done for, where you just set the hives up, the bees took care of themselves and you robbed them once a year. Those days are gone," he said.

Contact Whitis at 606-376-2524 or visit the McCreary County extension office's Web site, http://ces.ca.uky.edu/mccreary/, for a registration form and more information about the Southeast Beekeeping School. The school will be held at McCreary Central High School on Raider Way in Stearns. Advanced registration is $10 and $15 at the door. Lunch is included. 

Other upcoming beekeeping schools are: Eastern Kentucky Beekeeping School Jan. 23 in Hazard; Allen County Beekeeping School Feb. 6 in Scottsville; Northeast Kentucky Beekeeping School Feb. 27 in Morehead; Audubon Beekeeping School March 6 in Henderson and Bluegrass Beekeeping School March 13 in Frankfort.

For more information about beekeeping schools contact the Cooperative Extension office in that county or visit the State Apiarist Web site, http://www.kyagr.com/statevet/bees/index.htm. Contact the local Cooperative Extension office for information on local beekeeping associations.

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