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Beekeeping class set for Jan. 28, Feb. 4

Looking for a new hobby in the new year? Enjoy nature and the outdoors and want to find a way to benefit your community and your own well-being? Then beekeeping might be just the thing for you!

And the Cleveland County Beekeepers Association (CCBA) has got just what you need to get started in your new endeavor: a beginning beekeeper class that is set on consecutive Saturdays, January 28 and February 4, 2023. The classes will take place at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Cleveland County Center, Suite #1, 130 South Post Road in Shelby.

"Beekeeping is one of the few hobbies that can return a portion of your investment over time through the sale of honey, wax, and other products," says CCBA President Ray Maxwell. "The hobby itself is fairly easy to get into, and you meet interesting, friendly and helpful people along the way."

Maxwell, who will be leading the two upcoming classes, says that he finds beekeeping provides an opportunity to connect with nature and refocus and reflect on things going on in his life.

"While the hive is open and bees are flying around, there are few interruptions," he says. "Many people also get into beekeeping as a way to do their part to help this important creature survive."

While honeybees have been under threat during the past few years, Maxwell says local beekeeper communities are making it possible for the hives to continue to thrive.

"The survival of honeybees in our area is largely due to local beekeepers and the important role they play in keeping bees healthy," says Maxwell. "Without beekeepers, honeybees likely would not survive. Years ago, feral colonies were fairly common, but over the last 20 to 30 years, pests from other areas around the world have migrated to the US, and our honeybees have not had time to adjust. They have not developed the defenses needed for these threats and have difficulty surviving in the wild."

Beekeepers are able to monitor the level of pressure these threats place on individual colonies and help them when needed.

Maxwell says that learning to be a beekeeper does not have to be a huge commitment.

"For people who want a colony or two in their back yard, the investment of time and money can be fairly limited. While not necessary, I recommend two colonies so that you can compare and contrast their population and activity, and can share resources (bees, food, etc.) between the two colonies if one is struggling," he says. "Each colony needs a dry home to survive, so there's some investment in the hive boxes for them. In addition, it is important to have a smoker, hive tool or pry bar to separate boxes for inspection, and I recommend a jacket and veil as PPE (personal protection equipment)."

To learn how to best purchase bees or to catch a swarm, Maxwell strongly advises beginners to attend a class such as the one being offered and/or to have a mentor to help initially and be able to ask questions or send photos if you have questions while inspecting your hives.

"Certainly, you can learn on your own, and many people are self-taught or learn through books and videos, but taking a beginning beekeeping class and having a mentor to help along the way really helps you avoid unnecessary work and frustration," says Maxwell.

Students are asked to attend both dates of the upcoming class, which costs $45 and includes a textbook, all class activities, membership in the Association for 2023, and an association t-shirt. No protective gear is necessary for this class. Class size is limited, and pre-registration is required. Call 704-487-7731 or email
clevelandcountybeekeepersnc@gmail.com to sign up.

The Cleveland County Beekeepers Association serves as a resource for local beekeepers to learn how to best meet the needs of the local honeybee population and to educate citizens about the importance of bees in our community. The local beekeeping association includes nearly 100 beekeepers. The CCBA partners with the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension Office and has been in existence for nearly 20 years.

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