Preservation Beekeeping Classes for Beginners

 A Series of 7 Classes

Susan Chernak McElroy teaches people how to be confident guardians of bees using methods that put the natural needs of bees first. Are you new to bees? Have you recently gotten bees and realize there is more to them than meets the eye? Or are you just thinking about what it might be like to host a hive of bees in your yard? This series is appropriate for all.

Honeybees are complex, magical creatures with an amazing social structure based on unity and a shared community mind. Come and learn what they need to thrive in your care.

Our series takes you through your first full year with bees: Choosing the right hive and location for your circumstances; obtaining healthy local bees; and accessing the deeper side of beekeeping — feeling comfortable and confident working with and learning from your bees. You learn about honeybee life in the hive, and how the bees work together to create a functional shared community.

Preservation beekeeping is a system that places the well-being of bees above the desire for maximum honey production. Our first priority is to see our bees survive and thrive! We believe that certain practices and methods help bees be their best. These are the main tenets of bee-centered beekeeping at our farm.

  • Treatment-free: We encourage bees to develop their own resistance to diseases and pests.
  • Natural comb: Bees create their own wax comb on bars or frames, without the use of foundation.
  • Natural food: If needed, we feed them raw, untreated honey, not sugar-syrup.
  • Natural reproduction: Queens mate naturally and with many drones so they expand the gene-pool. Swarming is a desirable and proven means of colony reproduction.
  • Wild bees/Local bees: We populate our hives with feral swarms, or locally-raised bees.
  • Minimal intervention: We honor the bees’ desire to create and maintain their colony without needless intrusion. We let bees be bees, and trust them to do what is best for their hive.

SUSAN McELROY teaches our beginning beekeeper classes. She is a sensitive teacher, passionately devoted to Preservation beekeeping. Susan’s NY Times Bestselling book, “Animals as Teachers & Healers,” was the first book to begin the genre about having a powerfully deep relationship with animals.

Susan in swarm 2IMG_3974

The Classes:

The Preservation Beekeeper—What kind of a beekeeper would you like to become? Some bee stewards are attracted to a less-invasive, more hands-off relationship with their hives. Some want to interact more, but are not sure how to do so in a respectful, helpful way. In this class, we’ll explore more deeply the precepts of Preservation beekeeping: Why we put bees first. One of the most difficult challenges in beekeeping is knowing what—if anything!—to do when a hive is in trouble for any number of reasons. The kind of beekeeper you decide to be will help guide you through the yearly challenges of beekeeping, from failed queens, starvation, disease, hive splits, honey gathering, and more. 

The Bee Family–“Bien” is a German word for a honeybee colony, a word that is far more expansive than our word “hive.” The bien (pronounced ‘bean’) encompasses not only the hive structure and all the bees, but the entire area—plants, animals, and environment—served by the hive. We learn the roles of all the colony members, about the hive structure itself, and about the many purposes bees have, as they see it, in the world outside their hive. We follow an imaginary feral colony from the time it claims a new tree-hollow, through the seasons and into their first winter. Immersing ourselves in the life of the wild bee helps us understand more fully what the bees need from us and why they need it.

NOTE: If you have taken this class before, don’t hesitate to take it again: We add new information gleaned from bee conferences and bee research. We promise there is much new to learn any time you come.

Tending Your Bees–How do you safely, gently wrangle a box filled with 50,000 bees? While we don’t advocate frequently opening up the hive, sometimes you must open up your hive and take a look inside. No matter what hive style you work with, the principles remain the same. Learn to sharpen your senses so you can tune into the sound, the smell, and the look of a thriving hive, or identify one that is struggling. Each hive and each beekeeper is a bien unto itself. Learn to trust your unique way of being with your bees. You may need additional gear for different situations. In  class we will explore entrance reducers, robber screens, yellow-jacket traps, bee-herding tools, and more.

The Right Hive in the Right Place–We have many hive styles to choose from nowadays, each with advantages and drawbacks. You’ll see how bees live in several of the most-used hive styles. These types can be purchased locally or, if you have basic carpentry skills. are easy to build. Once you choose which hive suits you best, learn where to place it. The right site decision will save many headaches down the road for you and for your bees. We’ll discuss slope, weather, wind, exposure, height, predators, shade, rain protection, and water sources for your bees.

Swarms! Bring Home the BeesThis fun and information-packed class is being taught by my bee teacher/mentor Jacqueline Freeman. Bees repopulate themselves by swarming. While about half the hive stays behind, the old queen and thousands of bees fly out in the spring to seek a new home. These are the strong survivor bees you seek to populate your hive. Spend a fascinating day learning about the magic of the swarm, and how to catch a swarm easily and safely. Join local swarm lists and learn resources for finding local bees.  

Gardening for Bees–Learn basic rules for creating bee gardens. We’ll share what to plant and how to plant it so bees have plenty to eat in each season. Learn how to build your own inexpensive “pollinator hotels” that house our unsung but vital native pollinators. Sweat bees, mason bees, leaf-cutter bees, wool-carder bees, hover bees: The more bee-dazzled with honeybees you become, the more you will notice all the other bee visitors to your yard and garden. Learn how to steward all of them.

Gifts from the Hive—Wax, honey, propolis, and healing are all gifts of a bee hive, gifts meant to be used respectfully and sustainably. This class will be filled with hands-on fun! Learn to how extract honey, make mead, and how to save and use beeswax to create items from furniture polish to candles. We’ll show how to collect propolis—a resin-based substance bees use for healing. Taste, smell, and play with bee stuff!

Class Particulars: We meet either in Battle Ground or at Pixie LaPlante’s home and gardens (1227 B Street, Washougal).

Classes are $30 Each ($50 if you take two classes in one day).

Also, we heartily invite you to join our online Meetup group HERE, where we post all of these classes and much, much more. Join up and keep in the loop on all things BEE!

CURRENT CLASS DATES

We’d like to make our beginner bee series classes more available to out-of-area bee students. Four classes over two days! We’ll teach two classes per day. Local folks may take one or all of the classes, with discounts for attending two on the same day. Here are the classes, in sequence for the weekend:

Date: April 22-23.
Saturday:
*The Bee Family (9am-12pm)
*Becoming a Bee-Centered Beekeeper (1pm-4pm)

Sunday:
*Right Hive, Right Place (9am-12pm)
*Tending Your Bees WEATHER DEPENDENT! (1pm-4pm)

Fees:
-Single class—$30
-2 Classes same day—$50
-Entire workshop of 4 classes—$100

Register with PayPal HERE (just list the classes you plan to attend in the “notes”)