As I've been posting a few articles about bees and beekeeping, I thought I'd post a little information on beekeeping courses for anyone who is interested.
There are 3 courses that I know of:
- The course that I did is run by OTEN (Open Training and Education Network) which is a division of TAFE. I chose it because I wanted both the practical and the deeper, theoretical knowledge that the course offered. The course covers bee colony structure and handling, bee products, bee flora, nutrition and crop pollination, bee diseases, parasites and pests and beekeeping practical skills.The overview says you need access to hives in order to complete the course, but I didn't have access to hives and nor have several of the friends who have done the course.
The course is taught by a guy called Bruce White who worked for the Department of Primary Industries for over 40 years as the Apiaries officer (or something like that). He is extraordinarily knowledgeable and a practicing beekeeper himself.
As at the time of writing this course costs $545.
You can find up to date information on the OTEN website. For further information on this course call the Horticulture teaching section on (02) 9715 8537 or 1300 421 805.
- More recently I have heard about the Natural Beekeeping Course run by Milkwood Permaculture which is a two day practical course.Their marketing pitch is "Natural beekeeping aims to care for the bees, allowing them to control their own environment and build resilience. A gentler approach than conventional beekeeping, this method results in healthy and contented bees and superb raw honey, as well as allowing for a fascinating partnership with your bee colony."
I'm all for natural, so that's a good thing. What I don't accept that a beekeeper practicing 'conventional beekeeping' doesn't care for their bees, or in some way has a rougher approach resulting in unhealthy and discontented bees. My personal view is that one of the reasons why Australia is not affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or the varroa mite like almost every other country in the world is because our beekeepers care exceptionally for their bees. Considering Australia has been in drought for the past decade, our bees really should be quite stressed and susceptible to anything going around. But they're not. The industry is in extraordinarily good shape (so long as the Federal Government reverse their rather shortsighted decision to declare the Asian bee endemic).
All of the beekeepers that we buy our wax from are second or third generation beekeepers (we even have one fifth generation beekeeper). They would call themselves 'conventional beekeepers' but I would challenge anyone to call how they treat their bees unnatural. The beautiful thing about bees is that if you don't treat them well, they simply pack up and leave. To me, that is the best explanation of Colony Collapse Disorder. Yes, American beekeepers, if you expect bees to pollinate hundreds of thousands of kilometers of a single crop you may find they disappear. Like humans, bees need a variety of protein and carbohydrates in their life.
Anyway, I digress again!
At the time of writing this course costs $390. For more information go to the Milkwood Permaculture website or call (02) 6373 7763
This course is taught by Tim Malfroy who is a commercial beekeeper (keeping his bees in standard beehives) started keeping his own bees in 2006 and is the founder of Malfroy's Gold honey.
3. Tocal Agricultural College have a Beginning in Bees course run by NSW Industry & Investment. The course is 2 days and involves both theory and practical components. They seem to run courses all over the place (listed on their website are upcoming courses in Bellingen, Paterson and Camden).
At the time of writing this course costs $500. For more information go to the Tocal Agricultural College website or call 1800 025 520.
I can't recommend keeping bees highly enough. Whether you plan to manage them actively or simply to have them pollinating your garden (and those in the local neighbourhood), they are endlessly fascinating. Obviously their are many practical considerations and I would highly recommend doing a course first to build up confidence and to ask any questions you may have.
Happy honey eating! xx
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