Wilson, North Carolina – Amid North Carolina’s current cold snap, beekeepers across the state are preparing for the warmer months ahead when bees begin arriving at people’s doorsteps.
Greg Wolgemuth is the outreach coordinator for the Wilson County Beekeepers Association, a chapter of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association.
Wolgemuth has been a forester by trade since the 1980s. He says he is proud of his industry and how they are “good stewards of the environment,” but over time the landscape has changed.
“When we were harvesting wood back then, we saw a lot of bees. There were bees all over the woods, you know, because there were wild colonies and big trees,” he said. -he declares.
But as the state began to grow more pines, Wolgemuth said he began noticing fewer bees in the woods.
“There’s no place for bees to nest in these young pines – they’re growing like crazy and no hollows,” he said.
A friend of Wolgemuth had also recently taken up beekeeping and told him about the plight of bees.
“I have bees, and from there it’s been a journey,” Wolgemuth said. “I guess in a way, I kind of feel like I’m giving back…I don’t know if I feel like I took anything from the natural environment, but I I feel like I helped change it.”
Now, Wolgemuth is helping introduce others to the world of beekeeping through the Wilson County Beekeeper Association’s 2022 Beginner Beekeeping School on Saturday, March 12.
This Saturday, beekeeping students will spend time in the classroom learning about the biology of bees, their importance to the environment, their food supply, how you can help bees, and how you can start keeping them.
“It’s a learning curve — a steep, steep learning curve — with bees. It’s not like anything else,” Wolgemuth said.
Following the March 12 class, Wilson Club members will hold three practice days at the club’s apiary, which is a place where bees are kept.
“At the end of the day, beekeeping is a contact sport…what we strongly encourage is after this course, the real ‘in the hive’ class,” Wolgemuth said.
Beginning student beekeepers, who will also become members of the Wilson Club with their $60 payment for the course, are welcome to come to as many apiary days as they wish.
“[The beginner’s class] is for people trying to enter their first year of beekeeping. It is also for people who are simply interested,” Wolgemuth said.
Wolgemuth said that while some people attend the course just to learn more about bees, the majority are people who are considering getting into beekeeping and aren’t sure what they’re getting into.
The majority of NCSBA chapters hold beginner classes in the spring. Wolgemuth said classes are usually held then because the bees are ordered in the winter and then picked up in the spring.
“We have [the bees] here once it starts to warm up, so we try to get ahead of the people ordering these bees who don’t really know what they’re getting into,” he said.
Wolgemuth says having bees is similar to having chickens.
“They need breeding. You need to feed them. You know, people are shocked by that…you need to watch them for pests and diseases, and you need to provide them with a nice warm place to live,” he said. said.
“You shouldn’t just put a box of bees in the garden and expect to fetch honey. It just doesn’t work that way,” he added.
While diseases and pests threaten bees, Wolgemuth says the biggest threat is closer to home.
“The biggest threat to bees is an uneducated beekeeper,” Wolgemuth said. “They buy these packs and they’re expensive – $135 or something this year and a pack of bees is worth 10,000 bees.”
“At least in my mind, successful beekeeping is about getting your bees in the spring and the next spring having more bees,” he added. “If you ever do this, you know you’ve experienced all the joy of a bee year. You’re hooked. Very few have quit after this success, but then you realize there’s still a lot to learn because there’s more to learn. is endless.”
The Wilson County Beekeeper Association is going one step further this year to continue educating people on how to keep bees. The club will also be offering an advanced beekeeping course June 2-3.
“We’ve got some really good speakers lined up, we’ve hired the state inspectors – we’ve got two coming, we’ve got a queen [bee] ranchers…and we have local equipment vendors that will be there,” Wolgemuth said.
Those interested in enrolling in the Wilson County Beekeeper Association Beginner School can Click here for more information.