With the start of a new year, many people make resolutions to lose weight or stop certain habits.
For others, though, a new year is a good time to try something new. A hobby that I get a lot of questions about is beekeeping.
Honeybees have been kept for honey production for thousands of years. Honey has been found in the tombs of the Egyptian pyramids.
The honey was still good after 3,000 years.
No honeybees are native to the Americas. The honeybees that we have today are descendants of those brought from Europe by the first settlers. American Indians called them the white man's fly.
Before their arrival, our plants were pollinated by bumblebees and other insects.
There has been a big increase in the past three years in the promotion of beekeeping. A number of factors influenced this increase.
The first is Colony Collapse Disorder, in which the bees in a hive disappear.
So far, there has been no definitive answer to why these colonies have disappeared, but it could be from stress, diseases, parasites, pests or pesticides.
It is important that we find the cause because one-third of all the food we eat is pollinated by honeybees.
The average age of beekeepers in the United States is in the 60s. We need younger people to get involved and learn the art of keeping bees.
This is one of the reasons we started the 4-H Bee Club.
Many people are starting to keep bees because of the health benefits of honey. Local honey has pollen from plants that can cause allergy problems.
It is said that allergy and sinus problems can be reduced by eating a small amount of raw, local honey every day.
Also, pollen can be collected from bees and used to counteract allergy problems.
Beekeepers with arthritis seem to have fewer problems. The venom injected when bees sting seems to help.
A number of decisions need to be made before anyone starts keeping bees.
The first is what system will be used. The most common is the Langston system. The other is a top bar system, which has been used for years in other countries and is becoming popular in this country.
A beginning beekeeper can find the equipment at most bee-equipment suppliers. A number of them can be found on the Internet. Most will have a beginner's package that includes everything needed to start keeping bees.
The next step is to choose the species of honeybee.
There are about 16 species of honeybees throughout the world. The three main species here are Italian, Carnalian and Russian.
They all have their strengths and weakness, but the Russian bees are managed a little differently because they will swarm faster than some of the other species.
The Russian bees have more resistance to Varroa mites, one of the main pests of honeybees.
One of the best things that a new beekeeper can do is find a mentor. Beekeepers who have been keeping bees for years are always glad to help new people get started.
There are a couple of beekeeping organizations in the area: the Aiken Beekeepers and the Clarks Hill Beekeepers.
The Clarks Hill Beekeepers will have a full-day session on Feb. 5 for anyone interested in beekeeping.
More information and registration forms can be found at www.clarkshillbeekeepers.org, or by calling me at (706) 541-2152.
Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com or at (706) 836-2152.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.