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Backyard beekeeping 101: Smithfield class attracts honey of a crowd

March 14th, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life

Story and photo by Jessica Wilkinson

SMITHFIELD– People looking to learn the art and skill of beekeeping filled Smithfield Recreation Center Friday night for an introductory class from local beekeeper Kurt Etherington.

“The class was supposed to be capped at 60 people,” said Etherington, “but a lot of folks came that didn’t register for a seat.” After leading the workshop of almost 80, he said he was thrilled by the attendance.

“Beekeeping is becoming tremendously more popular,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the interest, as bees are a hugely important part of our lives.”

Based on the size and involvement of Etherington’s audience, outsiders are beginning to agree.

“The bee class will be a success if all those that attended take what they learned and make something good happen,” said Jamie Garner, executive director of Ollin Wellness, which sponsored the free class. “And the room was packed.”

With the help of the Ollin Wellness team, Etherington was able to provide and evening dedicated to appreciating honey bees and their delicious byproduct.

“I guess that honey was always on my mind when I started keeping bees,” Etherington said. “I figured that if you’re going to go through all the work it would be great to get a reward at the end of the summer.”

A reward, he and Garner agree, is indeed fantastic.

“This is the best time of year to get serious about beekeeping,” Etherington said. “Most bees are supplied only in the middle of spring, and if you don’t have bees it’s hard to be a beekeeper. If people are thinking about starting, they’re running out of time if they want to do it this year.”

And with a productive spring, honey harvest could start as early as fall.

“Well, no one can really start beekeeping this week, because there aren’t bees available yet,” Etherington told Hard News Café. “If they started this spring though, there is a good chance they would be able to harvest some honey this fall though there are no guarantees.”

According to Bushfarms.com, a website Etherington encouraged Friday’s attendees to explore, spring is a very volatile and unpredictable time. Pollen availability, the most influential element of honey harvest is determined by temperature. Inevitably, the weather either delivers pollen by the end of late February or postpones availability until mid-April.

“Each hive is different,” said Cory Stanley, Utah State University Extension Cooperative Agricultural Pests Survey coordinator and bee expert in an email exchange following the workshop. “I started three hives last spring. In August I was able to harvest two gallons of honey from one hive and three gallons of honey from the second hive. However, I was unable to harvest any honey from the third hive, which was fairly weak.”

She explained to the audience Friday evening the importance of researched experimentation, stressing the value in developing your own practices.

Stanley referenced a series of useful tools beekeepers can utilize in their local communities. She recommended involvement in the Cache Valley Beekeepers Club. Meetings are held at the Whittier Community Center on the first Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m.

“Learning about bees is a terrific way to learn about nature, animal behavior, entomology, man’s role in the environment and more,” Stanley said. “Bees can definitely teach us a lot.”

“Learn from the bees,” Etherington said several times throughout his lecture. “You’re going to learn a lot from just watching your bees.”

From honey to anatomy to equipment, the workshop was informative and conducted with a lot of conversation. Encouraging and accepting questions throughout the course of his lecture, Etherington relied on his six-year expertise to inform his curious students and opened the floor to veteran beekeepers within the audience. The diversity of sources provided reliable advice and helpful suggestions.

“It was good to see the interest in setting up and maintaining a successful beehive,” Garner said. “Kurt loves to talk bees and has done enough research that he is able to answer just about any questions you may have.”


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  1. One Response to “Backyard beekeeping 101: Smithfield class attracts honey of a crowd”

  2. By HoneyBee on Mar 16, 2012

    I would love to attend such a class!

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