Buzzing to be a beekeeper? Good news— Yass District and Surrounds Beekeeper’s Club will be holding two-day beekeeping courses here in town covering everything you’ll need to start your journey as a backyard beekeeper. The course is presented in conjunction with tutors Nadya Small from The Naked Beekeeper, who is president of the Yass Beekeeper’s Club, and Cristian Gorton Nemori from Honey Bees. Courses will run on the 12th-13th of November, 19th-20th of November, and the 3rd-4th of December. 

More courses will be available in 2023, potentially including winter refresher courses before the spring season.

Nadya explained the course aims to teach and guide participants across all aspects of honey bees. 

Tutors will cover the bee life cycle, distinguishing bees, parts of a beehive frame, and bee growth stages. 

Currently, Yass has been hit by American Foulbrood (AFB) which is a notifiable DPI disease. Bees and hives need to be destroyed in order to contain it because there is no treatment. For this reason, Nadya will also be teaching the importance of biosecurity in looking after beehives.

Building wooden hives at the Yass District and Surrounds Beekeeping Club

“The second day is a lot of the pests and diseases and management, and the first day is a lot more of the introduction and being comfortable with bees. I love being in a beehive, so we’re going to get people geared up out at the Yass and District Apiary, and go through everything so it’s a guided, practical experience,” said Nadya.

“It’s so they can know what they’re getting into, and know not to be frightened of bees. A lot of people think ‘I’m anaphylactic, I can’t have bees.’ I’m anaphylactic and I have thirty hives! A lot of it is management, safety and knowledge.”

Nadya added that because of Varroa mites, a parasitic threat to honeybees, many are concerned about how bees in Australia are affected. During the course, the tutors will explain what’s happening and how beekeepers in Yass can do their bit to help. 

“It’s a beginners course, but we have members of the club for a few years wanting to do it. They are happy to do this course because they know that they’ll learn even more than what they already do,” said Nadya.

Yass & District Beekeepers meet to share knowledge at the Club’s apiary at National Trust property Cooma Cottage. Photo Jasmin Jones

She explained that although there are good Australian beekeeping books, many new beekeepers access material only relevant to overseas.

“Everyone hits YouTube, and unfortunately, everyone hits not-Australian YouTube. So, they’re learning bad practices that you can get fined thousands for doing in Australia that people take for granted in America,” said Nadya.

“In suburbia, we can’t open feed hives, you can’t leave your honey frames out in the open.” 

Nadya stresses the importance of being registered to help control AFB and other threats.

“Without registration, we would have a lot more feral hives that are out of control, spreading everything. It’s a good communication network to be registered, as well as a legal requirement.”

As well as beekeeping courses, the Beekeeper’s Club runs field days during the working months of spring to late autumn, every third Sunday. 

“It’s usually out at the apiary, but this year we’re looking at bringing it more to the people, so some of our field days will be at people’s hives. If somebody has hives that need honey extraction then the whole club can go there and learn. We can look at other properties, how we set our hives up and run it. That’s really important for backyard beekeepers,” said Nadya.

“In the cooler months we do working bees. For the last couple, we’ve been building different types of hives. Our apiary is educational, so we don’t have the same types of hives. We have what’s considered a natural hive, then your standard hive, we’ve got the flow hive. This year, we’ve just built a long langstroth hive which we’re hoping to get established in a few weeks time,” she continued. 

Nadya has been a registered beekeeper since she first started beekeeping five years ago, and became a member of the Yass and District Beekeeper soon after.

“I love being with people and being with bees. I just love sharing knowledge, I could talk about bees forever and when people have a question there’s not a question too stupid,” she said.

“If someone says they can’t find an egg, I’ll happily go through an entire hive until I am confident that they can recognise an egg which is like a minuscule grain of rice in a bee cell.”

“I think people appreciate the patience, and bees are a very patient hobby. That’s what I love about it, I can stand in my beehive or I can just sit there and watch my bees with a cup of coffee. It’s a really calm patience and I love teaching people about how relaxing they can be and also how good they are in the garden,” said Nadya.

Swarm catcher Susan Morrissey, Kristy Warren and son Seth McDermott inspect a hive on site at Yass District Beekeeper’s Apiary at National Trust property Cooma Cottage. Photo Jasmin Jones

Nadya grew up with bees at her grandparent’s house and has always been fascinated by them. She has completed beekeeping courses in Australia and is currently undertaking a queen-rearing course overseas. 

Nadya encourages those interested in beekeeping to first contact their local beekeeping club.

“Give us a call because we are always more than happy to show people to the apiary, discuss and visit on what sort of hive would work, what sort of gear is needed, how much money will be spent, how much time will be spent. We can go through all the practicalities and the logistics and the fun factor before they decide where they want to go from there,” she said.

Yass District and Surrounds Beekeeper’s Club have commercial beekeepers in the club from whom new beekeepers are able to buy nucleus hives and swarms.

If beekeeping is a dream you’re ready to take up, or you want to learn more about bees, don’t miss out on the beekeeping courses or get in touch with the knowledgeable and friendly members at Yass District and Surrounds Beekeeper’s Club.

Southerly Jones