Given that bees do quite well in the absence of a beekeeper IF they are free of disease and pests, and have adequate forage, our exam will focus on what the beekeeper brings to the bees: the ability to recognize and treat disease and pest conditions, and expertise on the needs of the colony throughout the year, and when they need feeding and beekeeper suppport.
Of less importance to the bees is the beekeeper’s skill in managing swarming, reproduction and nectar gathering and honey harvesting. Those may be critical to the beekeeper, but not so much to the bees!
The only value this NewBees course has for all of you is that you get a clear idea of what is required of a beekeeper, and that you go into your first beekeeping adventure with a realistic set of expectations. The upwards of 80% of beekeepers who end their beekeeping careers in under three years probably do so out of frustration…principally frustration when their bees keep dying from either disease or failure to overwinter. I want you to have the tools to deal with those situations, and to avoid quitting out of needless frustration.
Not that beekeeping will cease to offer its unique frustrations, disappointments and challenges. As the saying goes, the bees do not read the same books we read. The heart of beekeeping, and one of its enchantments, is that constant need to problem solve. You never know what you are going to find when you open up a hive. There are often very deep mysteries waiting for you there. Difficult logic problems. But with some good basic knowledge, and with the proper direction in seeking resources, all those problems are explicable, if not soluble!
So I will break down your exam research topics into the following, posting a page for each:
- the arc of the colony year, what the colony is trying to do, when, what to look for, and how to react to what you see
- the Three Horsemen of the Bee Apocalypse: Varroa destructor, lack of forage, pesticides/field sprays
- swarm control/making nucs
- recognizing and treating colony-threatening conditions ie. mite infestation and the foulbroods
- how to prep for winter
- honey harvesting and handling
- general knowledge on what makes for a healthy bee colony
Note that as always, I am looking at the art of beekeeping through the lens of being resident in the coastal Pacific Northwest.
The exam will be multiple choice (much as I would love to set you all a series of essay topics!), and will be open book/open resource. You can rewrite it as many times as is necessary to score 90% or better to pass. A certificate of completion will be provided upon a successful pass.
Good luck, and from the bottom of my heart, may you find all this useful in having long and happy lives as beekeepers!