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Getting the buzz on beekeeping
Picture provided by Lisa Riente where Riente and Richard Guess are observing bees in her apiary.

Wateree Beekeeper’s Association will have an introductory workshop for individuals interested in learning more about beekeeping on Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Kershaw Homemakers Building. 

WBA President Richard Guess and WBA Vice President, Hick Etters talked about the workshop and information on beekeeping. 

“This workshop is for someone contemplating beekeeping, so they can come to the workshop and learn,” Guess said. “After they learn, they can decide if they want to become a beekeeper, but they’ll learn more about honeybees and the beginnings of beekeeping.” 

This is the first time the association has hosted a workshop. They usually have meetings on the first Thursday of every month, and a beginner’s class each year at the Kershaw Homemakers Building, Guess said. 

A workshop was held on Oct. 22.

“We have it on two different Saturdays so that if someone cannot make it to the first one, they can make it to the second one,” Guess said.

Etters added, “If we don’t have a great turnout this year, we won’t try it next year.” 

Topics to be discussed at the workshop include costs of starting up beekeeping, various types of equipment needed and the benefits of beekeeping. 

“A lot of foods we eat, bees pollinate them- just about every fruit, nut, squash, watermelon or cucumber,” Guess said. “If we don’t have honeybees to pollinate the crop, our food will be more expensive.” 

He added that the only crops out there that do not need a pollinator (bees, butterflies and moths) are corn, wheat and tomatoes. Etters and Guess said they could not imagine a life of just eating bread, corn and tomatoes. 

Here is another example of the benefits of beekeeping, they noted. If an individual buys local honey, it helps with their asthma and allergies. The two men said that is because the pollen in the honey will help build up an individual’s tolerance to pollen. They also said that local honey tastes better than store bought honey. 

“When we sell our local honey,” Guess said, “we let people do a taste test between store bought honey and local honey.” 

Guess said after the workshop if people are not interested in beekeeping, he wants people to at least gain information about honeybees. He hopes people will create honeybee forage. For example, people can plant holly bushes or trees, lavender or cone flower. 

He says do not use pesticides. 

“Pesticides are detrimental to the bees,” Guess said. 

He recommends people read the labels and see when to apply it. Do not apply pesticides earlier in the day. The bees are out from early in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. Applying during that time frame will kill the bees.  

Guess and Etters will have a question and answer at the workshop as well. Guess looks at Etters as a mentor because Etters has been beekeeping since the 1980s, and Guess since 2008.

The two have different reasons for their buzzing interest in bees. 

“I knew a game warden that had asthma,” Guess said. “He took the honey for his asthma and said it was better than the medicine he was taking. For the next 20 years I dreamed of beekeeping.” 

Etters said he had a friend give him a harvest of bees in the early 1980s. 

They also said they want to break up a few myths. They said beekeepers do not get lots of free honey. Beekeeping is not an easy hobby: it is challenging. They said beekeeping is different today than it was thirty years ago. It is more time consuming, more expensive and challenging. 

The Wateree Beekeeper’s Association started in 2009, meets the first Thursday every month from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Kershaw Homemakers Building. They said they want to thank the county’s Clemson Extension for allowing them to use the building at no charge. 

WBA is a non-profit.

Guess said that members of WBA are from different aspects of life, careers, ethnicities and ages. They have doctors, plumbers and young people interested in beekeeping.

Each month at the meeting there is a new topic discussed and it is usually designated toward the season and what to do for the bees in that season. The Workshop costs $10 per person. People can pay at the door or register ahead of time by sending a check or money order to WBA, P.O. Box 2153, Camden, SC 29020. 

After the workshop, if people are interested in beekeeping, the WBA will start their Beginner’s Beekeeping Class in January.