Updated: Sep 23
As a beekeeper of old, I was never a member of a beekeeping club when I started. Beekeeping was something that was learned and passed down from generation to generation. Beekeepers would talk to each other and pass information of what works what does not work and so on.
There were no "classes" that taught you about beekeeping. We did inspections once a month, during the nectar flow. We went out and captured swarms to increase the apiary size. I can proudly say that I am a member of a local club in Shenandoah County as well as the Virginia State Beekeepers Association.
With that said today bee clubs are an important part of beekeeping. They offer classes that pass on the needed knowledge to get the beginner through their first year, and most provide a mentor which is an experienced beekeeper. The mentors will also pass on the lessons learned about what not to do and what works and what does not work. They refine your knowledge throughout that most important first year.
Bee classes are as necessary as oxygen to the beginning beekeeper. These classes will go through a proven curriculum from different Universities, or the USDA and other sources. Most clubs have their master beekeepers teaching this and the other more experienced beekeepers assisting them in instruction. Second year beekeepers should monitor the course by attending and the class again to pick up on things not understood or missed completely. It is beneficial to do this and most bee clubs will not charge you to do this.
Clubs will work with a supplier to get you wooden ware and make sure you understand how to assemble it and put the hive up after finishing the exterior. This is where your mentor should enter the picture, as an invaluable resource.
I here you out there in the back of the room saying well it is expensive to take the classes and to pay membership dues each year. Well I can say with very certain knowledge that you are wrong. Classes range in cost from a few dollars to around a hundred dollars. Compare this to a beekeeper(first year) that has had no classes. They have gone online and spent time doing an online course for possibly a couple hundred dollars, have no mentor other than a computer, bought wooden ware and maybe its assembled the correct way, bought a package of bees or a NUC hive ranging in price from $130 to $225. Oh yeah the woodenware is about $250 per hive set up plus and another $60 in tools and smoker. So they have now invested about $440 in hive and bees and lets go cheap on the online course $150 for a total of roughly $600. Then they loose the bees due to mite infestation, small hive beetle, or during the winter because of poor preparation.
Okay now the beekeeper that has joined a club took the class with the club Class cost for entire family $95.00 which includes the first year membership dues, books, hands on classed in the club apiary, and most important is a mentor. Now when they go to buy supplies they will most likely get a discount on them because they are a member of a club, which beings down the cost of the woodenware, tools, and PPE greatly. It does not reduce the cost of the bees or NUC hives. Initial lay out in monies is now around $450. They will most likely have bees that make it though that first year successfully because they have had the guidance from an experienced beekeeper at their side.
So now you hecklers in the back of the room what do you think now????
So in the end do I recommend joining a bee club? YES I DO. I went to a class to get updated in the new diseases and the "new ways". Do I still use the old ways? Yes I do but they are combined with the old ways, I was taught as a child on the farm because I knew they were successful techniques then and they are now when combined with the new treatments, procedures and have made my apiary more successful and safer for my bees.
Bee clubs can be fun group of people that do a lot in the community and have fun together. Here is the State Beekeepers Association to be able to find a bee club in your area within the State of Virginia. https://www.virginiabeekeepers.org/Local-Clubs
Or you can call us here at Shenandoah Bee Supply and we can help you find a local club in your area. (540) 481-9555 or email us at email@example.com