How to get started as a beekeeper
by David Brown
Ever thought about keeping a hive of bees? A surprising number of Carolinians, rural and city, from all walks of life are doing just that.
As a hobby, it dovetails nicely with gardening. What’s especially surprising is many begin beekeeping with a pretty healthy fear of all things that sting, which of course includes bees.
Most become hooked on keeping bees once they manage that overrated fear of being stung.
It’s a hobby where you can find a brain surgeon and a farmer discussing pointers at at a county beekeeping club. Of course, this begs the question of just HOW do you get started?
This is a good time of year to start learning, just before spring. There are several ways, and most involve some form of mentoring with an experienced beekeeper to help you “baby step” to your first hive. Check at the local ag-center (they’re cooperative extension facilities now) for a county bee club, classes, or the names of beekeepers in your area. Now that you’re looking, you may discover a neighbor with some hives.
If you feel comfortable, stop and meet the keeper, most will welcome your visit. A major national supplier for beekeeping equipment and supplies (including the bees) is less than an hour’s drive from Elkin and they too have training classes. There is a Master Beekeeper program in North Carolina to which you can train and be tested.
Now about stings and allergic reactions to stings:
Bees do sting, but their aggregation level is so much lower compared to yellow jackets. Yes, it’s true bees generally leave the entire sting organ, and it does doom the offending bee. But yellow jackets also leave their stinger, albeit a smaller amount of time compared to bees. Close to half of some species of jackets leave stingers.
Quickly, slide or scrape a credit card across the point of the sting to scrape the stinger out. This is especially important for yellow jacket sting because, besides venom, the yellow jacket is also releasing alarm pheromones which alert other nearby yellow jackets to sting as well.
What about allergic reactions to stings? It’s common for the site to swell a couple inches around the area of the sting which is called small local reaction. Some reaction involves an entire hand, arm or foot, that’s called large local reaction. Neither are really allergic reactions.
A medical emergency allergic reaction is going to involve something systemic such as labored breathing, swallowing difficulties, fainting, nausea, vomiting and is very serious and should involve immediate medical help ASAP.
For the few who have experienced such trauma, there is relief now. It’s called Venon Injection Therapy, which involves gradual exposure to increasing levels of venom. Ask your family physician about it, particularly if you’ve had a bad experience with some stinging insect (s) in the past.
David Brown is a State Road resident and the owner of Brown Pest Control.
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