Going to beekeeping school

I’ve been learning about beekeeping by taking the local beekeeping association’s course, going to monthly lectures, and of course hanging out with my mentor, but I recently decided to get a bit more serious about this hobby by attending the Young Harris Beekeeping Institute. This is a rigorous training and certification program developed by Young Harris College and the University of Georgia that consists of lectures, practical training, and public service requirements. If you make it through the three-year process and pass all the tests, you get certified as a Master Beekeeper.  I convinced Dr. Hurst to go along with me, and we headed out for a scenic drive to Young Harris, a small town in north Georgia near the North Carolina border.

We were signed up for the initial coursework leading to the “Georgia certified beekeeper” rating, but we decided to show up early and sit in on the Master level classes.

Dr. Keith Delaplane, a noted entomologist, discusses the finer points of bee biology with Dr. Hurst.

The first afternoon there was a hands-on hive session in an apiary set up behind the classroom building. Most of the attendees were newbie beekeepers from the Atlanta area, but there was a smattering of people from other states. The instructors were well known entomologists and beekeepers from around the country.

Practical training in hive inspection. The hives were trucked in just for this course.

The lectures covered the range of beekeeping – everything from hive construction to honey bee genetics to making mead. This program emphasizes Integrated Pest Management, in which pesticide use is limited by the use of colony monitoring and non-chemical control strategies (see here for more info about this concept: http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/factsheets/ipm.htm).

Slide from a lecture on queen introduction.

A demonstration on how to extract honey.

Jim Bobb, a well-known beekeeper from Philadelphia, explains his approach to beekeeping.

I was accompanied by an occasional bee during the outdoor demonstration.

At the end of the course, most of the attendees took written and practical tests to become certified. Good news – Dr. Hurst and I both passed!

Student taking the practical test, which included inspecting a hive and identifying a drone bee.

The program included a competitive Honey Show, in which attendees entered samples of honey and other bee products. Dr. Hurst won awards for his honey and candles.

Dr. Hurst with his award-winning honey.

If you are serious about beekeeping, you should consider attending this first-rate course!

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