Last Saturday I attended my first meeting of the Jackson County Beekeepers Association. I had a wonderful time! Now I don't know why I waited so long to join.
It's nice to be in the company of other people who love what you love and I had a lot of fun "talking shop" and made a few friendly contacts. I did encounter some benefit to waiting a year before joining, which gave me a good frame of reference for understanding what they were talking about! There is so much to beekeeping...
One of the things that thrilled me most was that the educational presentation "The Dark Side of Beekeeping" focused heavily on selecting for good genetics as opposed to dumping loads of antibiotics and other nasty chemicals on the hive in an effort to limp along with weak bees. I have to admit that one of my biggest reasons for hesitating to join the association was that I feared I would meet up with a lot of disapproval for natural beekeeping methods. That was, of course, very presumptuous on my part.
It is highly recommended that all new beekeepers should join up with their local association. There are many good reasons for this.
Beekeeping is certainly one hobby that requires a mentor and you learn best by observation (or alternately your mistakes, if you choose to go it alone.) They are more than happy to help you along and teach you how to do everything from assembling frames to splitting your hives to prevent swarming.
You can also gain access to many benefits such as swarm capture lists, assistance with hive inspections to determine pests and diseases, use of honey extraction equipment that is otherwise too expensive for most people to purchase on their own and discounted rates on equipment when it is purchased in bulk by the club.
Your affiliation with your local bee club gives beekeepers greater representation by strength of numbers and helps to spread positive PR for bees such as the benefits of consuming local honey, awareness of the plight of bees and their threatened survival, encouraging people to be careful in their use of pesticides in gardening and representation in State and Federal government regarding agricultural policies that benefit the bees and their keepers.
I think I may be able to get one of the members to come visit my Summer Creation Club at church. The kids would just love that. I've been planning to do a presentation on bees myself, but I think one of these seasoned master beekeepers could do a much better job than I could. They frequently do visits to schools and other such groups.
One other matter of business that was briefly discussed is the need for updating their website with current information. The website presently reflects events from 2009. In my newbie enthusiasm, I volunteered my help with this. But I don't think they will take me up on that anytime soon, at least not until they know me better and see some commitment on my part. I believe they would find it much quicker and easier to maintain their web page in a blog format. This would also make it very convenient to disseminate information to their members via blog subscription and to publicize the club's activities through other social networking mediums such a Facebook and Twitter.
To put this in perspective though, we were the only folks of our age group there, aside from a young Amish family who were a little younger than us (and wouldn't be using the Internet anyway.) Most of the members were around retirement age, at least those who were present that day.
I am already planning to get my daughter (and any other kids we may have) involved in 4-H. I would have loved to have been involved in that as a youngster and there is something there for many avenues of interest. When my children are a little older I want to volunteer to work with our local 4-H group and hope to lend my experience in the areas of beekeeping, poultry, gardening and the home arts.
My husband got a lot out of the beekeepers meeting as well, mostly a greater enthusiasm for my bees. Right now he is my "mule" and does most of the heavy lifting. As long as he has his full suit on, he is happy and confident. He doesn't want to get stung under any circumstances. He likes to eat the honey though, so I will drag him along. Ha.