While the snow may be keeping New England residents from thinking about springtime activities and the outdoors, it will be warm again before we know it. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about ways to get outside and support the world around us, all while having a great time.
Most students will be preparing to go back to school after winter vacation to study math, English or history, but the Hampden County Beekeepers Association in East Longmeadow will be offering a truly unique class that’s sure to be the buzz of the town.
Come January 12, the 2019 Hampden County Beekeepers Association’s Bee School will be in session. The classes include three full-day sessions and will be held January 12, February 16 and March 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Classes will meet at the Longmeadow High School auditorium.
As described by the Hampden County Beekeepers Association, “This beginning bee school program will cover everything an aspiring beekeeper would need to know to start beekeeping on a hobbyistlevel.”
Mark Lantzakis, Vice President of the association, explained some of the topics that will be included during classes. “What will be covered are the basics of beekeeping, terminology, conditions of the hive and how to prepare for winter/spring.”
At the end of the classes, the Hampden County Beekeepers Association will be giving away a complete hive to get one lucky student started on their new hobby.The Hampden County Beekeepers Association began in 1930. The association is a platform for beekeepers to meet monthly at Willimansett Heights and discuss beekeeping. Often, the group will invite guest speakers. In September, the club hosts a booth at the Big E Agriculture Fair. The club promotes beekeeping and sells their honey products during the fair.
Mark shared why he would suggest residents take the upcoming beekeeping classes. “Attending bee school is a great way to become familiar with the fundamentals of beekeeping and provides a new beekeeper a better chance of success in their first years.”
After taking bee classes, the Hampden County Beekeepers Association sets students up with a mentor to apply the education they have received. Mark shared, “The school affords the students with a terrific mentoring program where experienced beekeepers can assist students with any questions and issues that may arise. Mentoring new beekeepers is also a nice ancillary benefit that has come my way.”
For those who are interested in beekeeping, Mark suggests taking the Hampden County Beekeepers Association’s Bee School classes rather than relying solely on online information. “There are great online resources and books, but the Internet can be dangerous. To be successful and to understand beekeeping, there is nothing like hearing it firsthand. Classes are a good way to support information.”
Many people may be scared to take beekeeping classes because of a fear of being stung. But Mark explained that this shouldn’t stop you from beekeeping. “Honeybees don’t have the desire to sting. If they sting, they die. I can stand next to them and not be stung. Be aware that they are gentle, but can also be defensive.”
When one thinks about bees, the first thing that comes to mind may be a wasp or a hornet. These insects are not the same as honeybees and have a different personality. Students should keep in mind that honeybees die after stinging humans. Because of the shape of their stingers, the stinger becomes stuck in human skin after stinging, dismembering them and causing deadly damage to their internal organs. Honeybees are not on a mission to sting. As Mark explained, “Honeybees have a mission to collect pollen and nectar.”
Mark shared why he thinks beekeeping is important. “Beekeeping is important for a number of reasons. Honeybees are important pollinators and it’s vital that we ensure their survival. Most of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy are the result of honeybee pollination.”
Beekeeping is also important, as honeybees are considered an endangered species. Learning how to properly care for and keep honeybees helps to keep the population alive. As Mark shared, “There are issues with parasites that place honeybees under stress. The environment is causing bee issues. You have to be a beekeeper. They are like a pet, you have to keep them.”
While beekeeping is a fun activity, some cities and towns have regulations and requirements when it comes to participating at your home. For example, in Longmeadow, the town Mark calls home, beekeepers are required to notify their neighbors that they are keeping bees on their property. Depending on the size of the property, there are also regulations on how many hives can be kept on the property. In Longmeadow, if your residential lot size is ¼ acre or less, you may only keep a maximum of two hives. For larger properties, a Longmeadow resident may keep up to twelve hives. Mark recommends checking with your town to verify what regulations they hold on beekeeping.
Beekeeping can be an exciting and fun hobby. As Mark explained, “I enjoy doing my part, however little, to help these important pollinators survive. I also find it immensely relaxing while working in my hives and around my bees. The world’s worries tend to fade away when in the midst of a hive inspection.”
Not to mention, beekeeping provides keepers with a great treat. “Of course, the honey is a nice benefit of all of the work that the bees and I do during the year.”
Interested in becoming a beekeeper? Register for the Hampden County Beekeepers Association’s Bee School online at www.hampden-county-beekeepers.org and click on the “Bee School” tab. The cost is $90 per person, or $170 for a pair of attendees. A membership to the Hampden County Beekeepers Association is included in the school fee, so that students may attend advanced classes upon completion of the school later in the year.
To become a member of the Hampden County Beekeepers Association without participating in the upcoming classes, please visit the Hampden County Beekeepers Association website to fill out a form. Or, simply stop by one of their upcoming meetings to be signed up on the spot. The annual fee is $10. The next meeting will be held Jan. 24.