By Rick Bogren, LSU AgCenter
About 10 years ago, Louisiana had about three or four beekeeping clubs. Now, according to the Louisiana Beekeepers Association website, the Bayou State has 17.
The interest in honey bees is growing statewide, and southwest Louisiana is following the pattern, said Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter agent in Beauregard Parish.
Since 2014, a few local beekeeping clubs have been providing training in Basic Beekeeping, and more than 160 people have completed the class, Hawkins said.
“Some extension staff at the LSU AgCenter in partnership with volunteer beekeepers developed the Basic Beekeeping program in 2013,” Hawkins said.
This group recommended “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Keith Delaplane, apiary specialist at the University of Georgia and 1986 LSU master’s graduate in entomology.
Then members of the Louisiana group developed a class outline and slide presentations based on Delaplane’s book.
Topics in this bee class include: bee breeds, bee biology, bee hive and accessories, getting started, management for honey production and pollination, products of the hive, off-season management, honey bee disorders, and parasites and nest invaders, Hawkins said.
The group also added a unit on Louisiana rules and regulations to enable future beekeepers to comply with apiary practices. One slideshow covers “Louisiana Honey Plants.”
An important aspect of the beekeeping class is the hands-on, practical beeyard visit, Hawkins said. Before entering the beeyard, students learn how to light a smoker and to maintain adequate smoke for calming the bees. Other safety items include how to use a bee veil, bee suits and other protective apparel.
“In the beeyard, the instructor will demonstrate the use of a hive tool for opening a hive and for pulling frames for examination,” Hawkins said. “Students will see what a good brood pattern looks like.”
“The instructor will try to show the class how to identify a live queen, but she tends to be uncooperative and tries to move around in a hive,” he said.
Seven of 17 Louisiana bee clubs have received the “Basic Beekeeping” program from the LSU AgCenter, and three have reported their class results, Hawkins said. Four of the 17 bee clubs have meetings and classes in AgCenter offices.
More information about beekeeping in Louisiana is available from Hawkins at 337-463-7006. And regular “beemail” updates about beekeeping are available by sending a request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.