Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beekeepers Guild

Last night Hubby and I went to our monthly beekeepers guild meeting. Our guild is growing so quickly. Though I don't know the exact numbers, I think it's over twice as big as last year. We meet in a church basement. I snapped a couple of pictures before and at the end of the meeting. I didn't get everyone in the picture, but you can get an idea of the people who come.

During Dr. Bee Before the Main Meeting

People moving to the front to talk to the speaker and taste honey.
The first part of the meeting is a Q&A session called Dr. Bee. I like that we are able to ask questions from veteran beekeepers. Sometimes we even learn things that aren't in the scheduled part of the meeting, but are important to know. Last night I learned about hive robbers, bees that steal honey from your hives. One way to combat that is to put up a robber screen in front of the entrance to confuse the robber bees. It looks pretty easy to make. I also took a video of all the different sides so I can make one if we see other bees trying to rob our hives.

Robber Screen
During the main session we learned about marketing our bee products from a man who runs a non profit to help 4-H, scouts, and the local zoo raise bees. All of his proceeds go towards the different organizations. Hubby and I learned a lot. A few of the things we learned were what were the legal requirements for bottling and labeling, pricing, and how to sell local honey. The man was very informative and witty. He talked about "hush honey", the honey you give to neighbors to keep them quiet about your hives. He also gives hush honey to city planners!  And he followed that up with saying that honey is like drug deals, the first jar is free, but after that people have to pay.

He also talked about how most (over 70%) of honey sold in the US is from out of the country, and is heated and filtered. You can't really trace where the honey comes from because sometimes it travels from country to country and the pollen is filtered out of it. We have an advantage to selling our honey because it is raw and has pollen and all the good stuff still in it. Because our honey is raw, it will crystallize more quickly, which doesn't affect the quality. Some people are turned off by it, so he encouraged us to not say "crystallize", but say "set". Good honey sets.

Honey from each hive will have a different taste, depending on what flowers the bees collected from. So he bottles his honey one or two hives at a time, so that people can sample the many different flavors. Even people who think they don't like honey sometimes change their minds when they taste honey from him. It is so different than the honey from the large companies. At the end, we had the opportunity to taste honey people in the guild brought from their hives. Don't worry, they used little disposable spoons. No double dipping! Hubby and I didn't taste the honey, since there was a crowd around the tables, but it was good for people to have the opportunity.

The thing I am impressed with the most is the helpfulness and encouraging attitude by others in the bee guild. The thought is that the more people successfully raise bees, the more it helps all backyard beekeepers. There isn't enough local honey around to meet the demand. So instead of looking at other beekeepers as competitors, they are allies. If only we can be more like that in other areas, like churches.

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