Shore Beekeepers’ Guild offers classes

January 25, 2013



Ann Snyder


If you’re observant, you may have noticed that there are millions of undocumented, non-native workers among the locals of Accomack and Northampton counties — honeybees, of course.


It’s well known that these lovely creatures produce the honey and beeswax that people have always prized, and that their pollination work is vital for so much of our food supply.


Many people don’t realize that most of the wild colonies of honeybees in North America were wiped out by imported pests during the 1980s. Today, in spite of annual losses of about one-third of all hives, beekeepers are helping honeybees become common once again.


There are several longtime beekeepers on the Eastern Shore who have continuously maintained their domestic beehives through various waves of threats: pesticides, viral, fungal and bacterial infections, mites, moths and beetles, and the still unexplained “colony collapse disorder.”


Three years ago these beekeepers were joined by others completely without experience but armed with the help of an experienced mentor, who began to organize a formal guild.


Since then, the Beekeepers’ Guild of the Eastern Shore has offered classes attended by more than a hundred local residents, and today includes members from as far north as Sanford, and as far south as Picketts Harbor. If you are noticing honeybees in your own yard, it’s likely a beekeeper is not far from your neighborhood.


The membership of the guild is very diverse; it includes professional scientists and amateur hobbyists, retirees, children, farmers, watermen, government workers – pretty much a cross section of the Shore’s population.


There’s a great diversity in management styles as well, from those who examine hives weekly to those who leave the bees to take care of themselves; from those who eschew chemicals to those who embrace chemical treatments without hesitation; from those who leave honey in the hive for bees, to those who turn bee products into income.


A common beekeeping proverb is, “Where two or three beekeepers are gathered, there will be 4 or 5 opinions about doing any one task.”


What all beekeepers have in common is a very heightened appreciation for the work of honeybees, for their complex and wonderful social organization, and for their endowment of marvelous and mysterious strategies for survival.


Beekeepers worry about the stores of honey sustaining this cluster of bees, and about the threat of various pests that might be lurking in the hive. No beekeeper can fail to be warmed by the thrilling blush of early flowering woodland maple trees.


They signal the start of the “nectar flow” of spring and the emergence of the bees — if the colony has survived.


Winter is a quieter time for beekeepers as well, but the Beekeepers Guild is always eager to share its enthusiasm for beekeeping, and is preparing to offer its “Beginning Beekeeping” class again this year.


The class will be held on two consecutive Saturday mornings in February, on the 9th and the 16th, at the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce in Melfa.


On a warm Saturday in April (to be announced) the third session will be held: a visit to a living hive for an up-close and perhaps hands-on experience with honeybees.


The cost of the class is $20, with a reduced fee of $10 for additional members of a household. This fee includes registration, a handbook and other materials, refreshments, a 4-month Guild membership, and support with acquiring and keeping bees.


Those who take the class will be well prepared to get started with honeybees this year. If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper,  visit, or contact Linda at or 757-442-7767 to register for the class.

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