A lesson in beekeeping

Right now, there are only a handful of commercial bee keepers in Iowa, that’s why beekeeping classes like the one offered at North Iowa Area Community College are so important.

A group of about 20 students from the beekeeping class had their first field exercise today and got to get hands on with the honey bees.

“We decided last year to get into beekeeping and see what it was all about,” says new bee keeper Linda Estrada of Waterloo.

She and her fellow beekeepers in training started taking the class in February, and Saturday is their first day in the field with the bees.

Linda got two hives in April so she’s picking up tips to help her hives be successful, including that’s it’s okay if there are a few casualties.

“I’ve learned that maybe I don’t have to worry if I smash a bee or 2. It makes me feel bad,” she says.

The students are learning everything they need to know to keep their hives healthy.

“How to go into their beehive to see if their beehive is doing what it’s supposed to do. Make sure the queen came out and make sure she’s laying eggs, and the hive is growing the way it’s supposed to,” explains Pat Ennis.

Ennis is a beekeeper and also happens to teach the class. He says it’s so important that people continue to show interest in bee keeping, especially since the honey bee population is declining.

Just this past year, Iowa lost 60-80% of their bees in part because of how cold the winter was, but Pat said it’s not just the weather causing these bees to die, but also the kinds of chemicals people are using.

“Whether you put it in on your lawn or wherever, some of those chemicals will tell you this is toxic to honeybees. Most people think a dandelion is a weed. I’m here to tell people dandelions are flowers. That’s one of the best pollen and nectar sources for the bees in the spring,” Ennis adds.

Before this class, Linda just looked at bees as insects that could sting her, but through this education she has a new appreciation.

“They’re amazing little creatures and I don’t think that we realize that without bees the ecology would be very bad, and they even say that if we don’t have bees at a certain point, the human race would die out. So who would think that a tiny little insect would have all that power,” adds Estrada.

For a list of which chemicals are toxic to bees, follow the link below.

http://www.pastatebeekeepers.org/pdf/ProtectingBees.pdf

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