By Mark Gunderman, Communications Specialist, CVTC
The keeping of beehives has long fascinated people, from the enjoyment of harvesting honey directly from the hive to a feeling of living closer to nature.
But most people who might like to have a beehive on their property wouldn’t know where to begin.
Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) will give people interested in beekeeping a place to start, beginning on Mar. 10. A one-credit, 32-hour “Beekeeping for Beginners” class is scheduled to start then and run into October.
“When we were redesigning our agriculture programs, beekeeping was one of the options to add to our Landscape, Plant and Turf Management program,” said Adam Wehling, CVTC’s dean of agriculture, energy and transportation.
“This is a very affordable class for students and the community, he added. “By saving one hive of bees through the winter, the cost of this course would be recouped. Starting with a solid knowledge of bee health and habits will pay off for many years in the future.”
Wehling, who has been keeping bees himself for six years at his small farm near Mondovi, noted that area beekeeping groups conduct some classes, but they are usually short weekend affairs.
“We saw an opportunity to enhance what has been started by these organizations by offering a more in-depth and hands-on class that follows care for hives from the summer honey harvest and getting them ready for the winter,” Wehling said.
Students in the class will have the opportunity to purchase a hive and bee colony, which will be kept at CVTC’s Energy Education Center until the class ends. Students can then take it home with them and be ready for their own beekeeping experience the following spring.
The class fits well with programs already going on at the Energy Education Center, according to a CVTC press release. The Landscape, Plant and Turf Management program already cares for flowers, fruit trees and vegetables on the Center’s grounds.
Wehling said the instructor for the class will be Jodi Lepsch, who also works for the Department of Natural Resources office in Eau Claire. Lepsch received training at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab under Dr. Marla Spivak, a professor of entomology considered one of the nation’s leading experts on bees.
“Beekeeping is one of the most rewarding ways to connect with nature,” Lepsch said. “There are many reasons people keep bees, from the pollination services they provide for backyard vegetable gardens and fruit trees to harvesting delicious honey or simply out of a desire to give a boost to this struggling species.
“Whatever your reasons are for considering embarking on this adventure, this course will provide you with a hands-on learning experience that will help you decide if beekeeping is right for you,” she added.
The class will meet periodically on Wednesday nights, with “lab time” work directly with the hives taking place on Saturdays. Students need not attend lab sessions every Saturday, but will be expected to log a minimum number of hours during the course, Wehling said.
The class isn’t just for rural residents, he added, noting that “it’s pretty easy to keep bees in the city now” and that “bees will travel up to two miles for nectar and pollen.”
Further information is available at cvtc.edu/Beekeeping. Registration for the class is now open.
The home page photo, provided by CVTC, shows beekeepers examining hive panels like those to be used in the CVTC Beekeeping course described here. The hive photo above comes from the Beekeepers Association of Southern California.