Beekeeping might appear to be an intimidating venture for some, myself included, so I reached out to Dunn County Beekeepers Association Vice President Willie Miller for some pointers. Here’s what I found:
• Join a local beekeepers association.
Miller said probably the most important step is joining a local association and taking a beekeeping class.
“It’s a good backbone starting class,” he said.
Dunn County Beekeepers usually hosts one at the end of January or early February every year. Miller said it either encourages or scares people away.
For those who are encouraged to continue, he said, joining an association can introduce newcomers to mentors in the scene. When Miller first started beekeeping six years ago he said that having a mentor allowed him to compare and contrast what is and is not working in a hive.
“You got people to bounce questions off of,” he said.
One thing he suggests is beginners start with two hives (with the same species of bee) instead of one. This way you can compare the hive activity to each other.
“You learn different things from rubbing shoulders,” he said.
Miller said the Dunn County association has members that have been beekeeping for more than 50 years.
“The mentorship of a club is really important,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from the beekeepers in the club.”
Miller added the Chippewa Valley Technical College offers a beekeeping class too.
• Check with neighbors and permits.
Make sure your local municipality or county allows raising bees first, but Miller said it’s just as important to check in with your neighbors.
Many people might not know if their neighbors have an allergy to bees. It’s best to run it by them first as to not alarm them.
• Don’t be afraid.
Miller said it helps a lot if you buy a beekeeping suit that is comfortable, and you’ll need all of the equipment starting out. He said that every beekeeper does something different when things get out of control, but Miller likes to lightly smoke a swarm to calm it down.
“Beekeeping is so interesting,” he said. “Bees are so interesting. They are not simple creatures.”