An increase in beehives and honeybees may start to pop up in back yards of Burke County residents this spring.
The Burke County Beekeepers Association, which is a chapter of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association, will be hosting a bee keeping school on Jan. 23 and 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The classes are open to anyone interested in learning the basics of beekeeping. The class is capped off at 50 people.
They hope to spark the interest of people in the community, so the bee population will start to rise.
According to BCBA Vice President Rusty Jones, the honeybee population is in decline and that could hurt flower and plant growth.
“Bees provide about one out of every five bites of food,” Jones said. “In the 1930s, there were over six million colonies in the United States and now there are about 2.4 million and we average 30 percent losses a year, so that is not really sustainable.”
Honeybees and thousands of hives are being transported to California to pollinate crops there, he said.
“The people who go around (transporting honeybees) commercially, they will go from California to Maine for cranberries, to the northeast for blueberries and then Florida for oranges and they are carting these colonies just so there is enough sustainability for our food sources,” Jones said.
The BCBA hopes to create a bee keeping ratio where the beehives are more spread out throughout the country.
“The idea is not to have 500 people who have 200,000 hives, but to have 200,000 people who have a couple of hives and that way you get more genetic diversity,” Jones said.
The goal of the BCBA is to acquire new members that might be interested in beekeeping.
“It is a very fun, rewarding hobby,” he said. “Bees are very nice and gentle.
Many people associate bees with yellow jackets and wasps, Jones said.
“Basically bees, unless they have to, will not sting you and unlike the yellow jacket, when they sting you, they die,” he said.
The honeybee is defending its hive and will only sting if they feel that it is threatened, Jones said.
When approaching a beehive, they spray a type of calming smoke to confuse the bees and mask the pheromones they may give off as warning signals, he said.
The goal of the beekeeping school is to get new bee keepers involved and to properly train them take care of their bees, Jones said.
Topics include basic bee biology, the three castes of bees, how to acquire and introduce the bees to the hive, how to maintain their health throughout the season and how to control pests and diseases and more.
“It is basically for people who know nothing about bees and teach them how to be successful beekeepers,” said Robert Smith, president of the BCBA.
They encourage all ages to participate and hope for a good response from the community.
“It is something anybody can do,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a child or a retiree or anywhere in between it is available and a good way to give back.”
Smith believes the interest is growing nationwide.
“I don’t think it is a local thing because there are bee schools about this time and on through March throughout all the counties in North Carolina,” Smith said. “We are not keeping up with the demand for the learning.”
The interest in beekeeping has increased because of the trend of people growing their own food, Jones said.
“As we are look at the farmers markets in the area, we are starting to see more farms that are organically based and locally based for our food sources,” Jones said. “Honey is as local as you can get.”
Bees only travel about eight to 10 miles away from their hives when they are pollinating, Jones said.
“Honey on the east side of Burke County may not even taste the same as honey that is made up next to Lake James,” Jones said. “It is different floral sources and availability of feed.”
People look at that as trying to make things more community based, he said.
For those interested in the bee school, all the equipment needed for the school sessions will be provided.
They also will have speakers coming from the N.C. Agricultural Extension Office.
Classes will be located at the Burke County Agricultural Building at 130 Ammons Drive in Morganton.