A common piece of advice for new beekeepers is to join a bee club. In Arizona there are no choices for Organic Beekeepers. When I started my research the first thing I did was try to find one to join. I searched online and I've asked a few very experienced treatment free beekeepers who live in other parts of Arizona just in case I missed something. Nope, there aren't any. Beekeepers who treat their bees with chemicals and have only used one type of hive box can be unwelcoming to those who choose not to treat bees or who use other hive styles. I wish them them well even though I get the sense that the feeling is not mutual.
So, what to do? Start one. I'd rather join one, but if I need to start one instead, I will do what needs to be done. If anyone reading this is already trying to start one. I want to join your club instead of starting one of my own. You can call the shots and I'll show up with cookies and tea. ;-)
Anyone wanting to start this with me should know that I am not an expert. I’ve read a few books and articles, I have two hives, I took a class and I attended a beekeeping conference. I consult with more experienced beekeepers on large non-local email lists and groups as well. I’m trying to start a local organic bee club only because there isn’t one for me to join. I know there are other organic beekeepers in the area that would benefit from shared knowledge and the occasional extra set of hands.
Because I'm the one starting it and I live in Mesa, I'd like to focus on Organic Beek's in the East Valley. To save my time and money, I'd like to avoid driving all over the place to connect with people. So far I've created a Facebook group as a rallying point. It seemed like the easiest way to start. If someone has a better (free) way to start an online meeting place please speak up. One person who has expressed an interest so far does not use Facebook.
If you are a beekeeper in the East Valley and you'd like to join me in this, let me know. I plan to keep it simple with quarterly face to face meetings and some sort of online communication. I'm new to Valley Permaculture Alliance so I'm not sure if I can use it as a communication site for a bee club.
What is Organic/Treatment Free Beekeeping?
1. No chemicals. If the bees wouldn't forage for it themselves, it probably does not belong in the hive. There are limited exceptions to this. Using lemongrass oil to bait a box or using a smoker to calm bees are examples of reasonable exceptions.
2. Hive Boxes. It does not matter what kind of hive box you prefer. They have there pro's and con's. Pick the one best for you.
3. Feeding bees anything but their own honey should only be done in few instances. A newly installed package of bees is an example of a time to feed sugar. They do not come with honey in the package and may need a few days of sugar water before they settle into their new home. Once your hive is established, never take more honey than your bees can affort to give. HFC is never ok.