Beekeeping is a fascinating adventure that requires a bit of training-if you hope to be successful. Learning from others with more experience is a valuable resource. This is why it is a great idea for new beekeepers to search for local beekeeping associations. Local groups can be found in every part of the United States. Let’s explore what they are and what they do – including why you may want to be a member.
Some beekeeper join several different groups, this give them a wider range of resources to learn from. For the beginner beekeeper, it may be a bit overwhelming but it is a good background of valuable bee info.
What is a Beekeeping Association?
A beekeeping association is a group of individuals that come together to share their knowledge and expertise on all things related to honey bees.
They may be highly organized with local, state and regional branches. Or, they may consist of a small group of experienced beekeepers that only want to get together and share experiences.
The size of a beekeeping association (club or group) can vary greatly. Some boast thousands of members that pay in dues to help support the activities of the club. These groups may hold meetings twice a month or more.
In rural areas, bee clubs tend to be much smaller. A local beekeeping association may consist of a smaller group of 5-10 friends.
Perhaps they meet once a month or less. But, they are no less passionate about bees and offer valuable information for beginners.
Some of them hold several classes for new beekeepers each year (especially state’s beekeeper association). Others provide special education days in the apiary or a local bee yard for hands on opportunities.
The structure of a group varies depending on the location. Most states of the United States have one state beekeepers association that serves as a hub.
Then, smaller clubs serve the local communities. They follow similar guidelines and through cooperation, share resources providing educational opportunities for new beekeepers and the public at large.
Beekeeping associations have the “people power” and sometimes the money to host a variety of activities.
These help support their members and helps the entire bee community. The exact programs vary but some common examples are:
- provide education and training
- allow members access to rental equipment
- combine Spring orders for bees
- mentor programs
- field trips and apiary visits
- community building
- advocacy for bees
It is a common practice for beekeeping associations to offer beginners classes to local residents. They are usually held in late Winter (when the instructors are not busy with their own hives).
These low cost classes are a great way to learn exactly what is involved in keeping honey bees. Sometimes, participants see the work involved and decide that hobby beekeeping is not right for them at this time. That’s okay.
A compelling reason to join your local club may be because they offer equipment rentals. The cost of beekeeping can be rather daunting.
Your club may allow members to rent expensive tools such as honey extractors or even oxalic acid vaporizers for a very small fee.
Order Bees in Bulk
Local clubs in my area often take order from members wanting to buy honey bees. Then, one person goes to the supplier and picks up the club order.
This can mean a savings for the members who get a better price by buying in bulk.
If your association has a mentor program, you are very lucky indeed. The way this usually works is some of the senior members promise to serve as helpers to new beekeepers. It is a great way to get some hands-on training.
However, it is not uncommon for mentor burn-out to happen. For the program to work well, the association needs a good supply of willing participants.
Field Bee Days
Some clubs offer various “bee day” events. Members are invited to a meeting at the apiary of another beekeeper.
Show up with your protective beekeeper clothing and get a chance to observe inside the hives of someone else’s bees. A great learning experience.
From monthly meetings, to annual picnics and Christmas parties, beekeeping associations give us a chance to join with others of like minds.
Finding friends that share your passion for bees is wonderful and who knows, you may need some help in the bee yard someday. Who you gonna call?
Just a fancy word for promoting the honey bee and those of us who manage them, advocacy efforts help the public understand the importance of both.
One example is sponsoring a booth at the state fair. Members often “man” these events, teach others about honey bees and may be given the opportunity to sell honey from their hives.
Advantages of Joining a Bee Association
So why join your local bee club? Well, why not. Yes, it is common for association to charge a small yearly membership fee.
But, the advantages of having a circle of local bee friends is well worth the cost. And, most groups also allow non-members to attend before they join.
In general, at each meeting a small program is presented on a variety of topics important to beekeepers. There is also a time to ask questions about any problems you may be having with your hives.
Find a Beekeeping Association Near You
One of the easiest ways to find local beekeepers is to ask. Of course, today many folks ask Google. But ,if it doesn’t yield the results you want – ask at the local garden center or farm supply.
Another good way to find beekeepers near you is to start with the regional associations. They can then direct you to each state association.
State groups keep the contact information for local clubs. Because the local groups are ran by volunteers – the contact information changes more frequently.
Another great resource for beekeepers are the groups that focus on bees and/or honey across the United States.
These organizations offer many educational opportunities for members and the public at large. Honey producers are often members of both as healthy bees produce more honey.
While it is not a necessity, being a member of a beekeeping club has it’s benefits. It is the best way to stay up to date on the latest management practices.
As new bee pests, diseases and challenges affect our hives – we need to know how to deal with them.
Of course, not every group will be a good fit for you. Find one that you like and feel comfortable joining.