First Year Beekeeper Cluster 2021

During my apprenticeship at OCBA, it was highly recommended by the members that I participate in the First-Year Beekeeper Cluster. My mom and I both thought this would be a great addition to my beekeeping journey as I got to interact with both experienced and other beginner beekeepers and learn from their experiences. I was put into one of the two Carrboro Cluster groups and needless to say, I was glad that I got to be with my mentor! 🙂  The first meeting of the cluster was at Carrboro High School. We met both Alan Hunter and John Rintoul, who are the co-mentors of the cluster. They were very friendly and welcoming to us! Unfortunately, it was terrible weather for the bees as it was extremely windy and rainy. Large gusts of wind were even blowing away the covers of trash bins! Alan gave us a great introduction to installing bees and lighting the bee smoker. Because of covid, I only had resources from youtube, online Bee School, and First Lessons in Beekeeping, which is the handbook used by the OCBA Bee School. Watching someone explain these procedures in-person felt much more immersive and vivid as opposed to reading or watching secondary sources. Unfortunately, we had to end the meeting early because of the rain and wind. However, the good news was that we had plans to resume the cluster meeting the next day at 2:00PM! The next day, John showed us how to light the smoker for the second time. Afterwards, he guided us thoroughly during the bee inspection by displaying the proper technique of opening up the hive, manipulating the frames, and checking for brood and conditions of the colony. Honestly, I was a bit nervous since he didn’t wear any gloves or suit! However, it was quite fun to watch the bees mass drinking nectar out of the cells due to the smoke and frantically fanning their pheromones! The inspection also gave me a better understanding of burr comb and propolis as John even offered a piece of it for us to smell (mind you, it smelled sweet!). Overall, this portion of the cluster was an extreme asset to me, especially since I had the NCSBA certification exam coming up within the week!

Final Thoughts

I want to thank my mentors and cluster group for greatly boosting my confidence in beekeeping. When I first started to inspect the hives at East Chapel Hill High School with the Bee Club, I remember being very panicked and not even being able to stand near a hive in a bee suit without feeling scared. Now as I get to watch more experienced beekeepers inspect hives, I’m beginning to make progress combating the fear of getting stung and coming to realize just how gentle bees are even during a thorough inspection.  Right now, I have to wear a bee suit and gloves to feel brave during beekeeping – anything less than that, and I get a bit panicked. As I work to achieve the certified level in the NCSBA Master Beekeeper Program and pursue the journeyman level later in college, I aspire to gain the confidence to keep bees with just a veil and no gloves!