Update: Bee School Day 1 has been postponed due to the spike in COVID-19 cases. Click here for the FBC's Facebook page to stay up-to-date with scheduling.
According to PerfectBee, “the oldest form of beekeeping, in which hives were kept for the purpose of collecting honey, took place at least 5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt.”
Fast-forward a few thousand years and a couple of miles to the north and left, the Forsyth Beekeepers Club is abuzz with keeping the tradition of domesticating bees alive and well with classes for beginners and advanced beekeepers.
On Saturday, Jan. 15, FBC will be hosting Bee School Day 1 where “folks without experience” can learn from local experts about honeybee life cycles, biology, equipment, diseases, nectar management and more. The experience is offered to “help you prepare for your bees.”
Bill Dunn, who is “the last remaining charter member” of the Forsyth Beekeepers Club, which began in 1998, said that he would be attending the class on Saturday to help answer questions and prepare demonstrations.
“The beginner classes are there to really give you a basic foundation of beekeeping,” Dunn said. “And [no experience] is required. Only thing you need to have is a desire to learn about and keep bees.”
For new beekeepers, Dunn stressed the importance of “just having fun,” saying the reason he personally got into bees was because he “thought they were neat.”
When Dunn was about 5 years old, his father began keeping bees.
“The bees just always fascinated me,” Dunn said. “I was just taken with them. I would go out and check them two or three times a day, which you’re not really supposed to do, but I loved it.”
During the beginner class, Dunn said he hopes to share some of that “fun” with the participants and show them how rewarding keeping bees can be.
“They’re kind of like pets, but with a dog, you’ve got to feed it, take it for a walk, you know,” Dunn said. “But with bees, they pretty much take care of themselves up to a point.”
Dunn explained that, while the passion to keep bees has to be there, basic knowledge of bee health and diseases is also important to have a successful hive and keep your fingers from getting stung.
“What everybody thinks about most of all are the yellow jackets that’ll just sting the daylights out of you — they’re mean as all get-out,” Dunn said. “Honeybees aren’t so much like that. If they sting you, they die.
“As long as you’re … going through the hive gently and methodically, the bees will sort of look up at you like, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’” Dunn said. “I work my bees like you’re dressed right now with no veil or anything.”
Mites and other viruses can infect hives and harm bees, all of which will be discussed at the beginner class, Dunn said.
He said that “knowledgeable keepers” would be getting into the details about how to check bees’ “food status, the available space to store nectar and just general well-being.”
“We’ve got such a vast amount of knowledge within our club,” Dunn said. “We’ve got some beekeepers that have been doing this for 30-something years and we’ve also got some beekeepers that go up and pollinate the apple orchards in Ellijay, some do specialized honey … in the Georgia mountains.”
Dunn said that the club was “bigger than just the county” and many members have “gone out of the county to speak about certain topics.”
“We do more than a lot of other clubs in the state,” Dunn said. “We do beginner classes, we do field days for beginners with mentors and we do classes on diseases. We’ve also got extractors for members of the club to use so they don’t have to go out and buy their own.”
Signing up for bee school will enroll you in a full year of Forsyth Beekeepers Club membership that grants you “the access to members that have over 30-something years of keeping experience and knowledge,” which, in Dunn’s opinion, is “one of the biggest bonuses of the club.”
After completing Bee School Day 1, participants that are interested in learning more and continuing their keeping journey can sign up for an “out-in-the-field” sequel.
Bee School Day 2 has been scheduled for April and will include a “hands-on” experience in Dunn’s pecan orchard.
For more information about the Forsyth Beekeepers Club or to sign up for Bee School Day 1 on Saturday, Jan. 15, click here.
According to Dunn, dates are subject to change due to rising COVID-19 numbers. Check the club’s website for any changes.