January 3, 2018
With increased awareness of the importance of pollinators, bees and beekeeping has become much more mainstream today than 30 years ago. Three workshops – Beginning Beekeeping, In the Bee Yard, and Harvesting and Winterizing, were held on Saturdays in March, May and September, respectively. Bee enthusiasts from five counties attended the day-long workshops which included lunch, demonstrations and door prizes.
During the first workshop, participants learned the basics of bee biology, plants and planting for foraging bees, and how to manage bees according to a beekeeper’s calendar. Patricia Gilbert (Natural Resource Specialist for the US Army Corps of Engineers) demonstrated the new observation hive for the Fort Peck Interpretive Center and shared her experience with the Australian built Flow Hive. Other guest speakers included Rick Molenda of Montana Bee Supply in Polson, who demonstrated beekeeping equipment and Beth Eiring from the Montana Department of Agriculture, who spoke about the Montana Apiary program and pests of the hive.
For the second workshop Jim Rodenberg a local commercial beekeeper taught the participants how to open hives, check bees, identify when to add brood and honey boxes, how to detect mites, eggs, larvae, and pupae, and find the queen. The hands on nature of this workshop and the access to such a valuable resource as Jim Rodenberg, made this the highest ranking program of the three.
The final workshop focused on extracting and harvesting honey, utilizing bee products, and preparing hives for winter. Jim Rodenberg demonstrated how to prepare the hives for winter while Patricia Gilbert, who has kept bees for five years, demonstrated how to extract honey from the traditional hives as well as the Flow Hive and encouraged hands-on participation.
Sixty-five percent of attendees to the first workshop returned for one or both of the other workshops. Based on survey results from 17 participants, their confidence level and understanding in purchasing and using equipment, bee biology, varroa mite management, and hive winterization, improved an average of 41 percent following the workshops. Eleven of 16 survey respondents already had bees when they attended the workshop, but four of the remaining five said that attending the first workshop gave them the confidence to try beekeeping. Participants praised the workshops highly by ranking them at 1.6 on a scale of one (highest) to five (lowest) and asked for more workshops in 2018.