I took an urban beekeeping class! Decked out in all the gear up on a rooftop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District one summer afternoon, I wondered what types of plants the bees in the two hives atop Glide Memorial Church would find in their 3-mile foraging radius. I also wondered how long my suit would act as a barrier between me and the bees. Would the smoke clear and the smell of my fear signal the bees to protect their honey (read: STING ME!)? Thankfully, with the guidance of beekeeping instructor Mark, I managed to remain calm and learned a thing or two about handling bees.
Proof that I handled the bees! After passing up the opportunity to HOLD the bees a few times (my excuse was letting others get to it first), I finally did it.
With the bee population dwindling over the years, urban beekeeping has become more common. However, their foraging radius isn’t particularly high, so we can definitely use more honeybees. I haven’t heard of friends keeping bees, so having the opportunity to attend one of Round Rock Honey Company’s beekeeping classes was really neat. Or maybe they are keeping it a secret from me since I love honey so much?!
Honey and honeycomb!
Round Rock is headquartered in Texas and offers year-round beekeeping classes in several states – California, Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are at least three classes/locations to choose from – Downtown, Candlestick Park, and Redwood City. Aimed at the novice, their classes are for people interested in learning about honeybees, beekeeping and potentially keeping a hive. I fall under the first two categories. Our instructor Mark gauged everyone’s interest level before the class started, so that he could adjust his talk accordingly. For the first hour or so, he dropped a lot of bee knowledge on us.
We learned what the honeybees’ lives are all about (gathering food, cleaning, and protecting their colony) and their huge role in agriculture. We benefit so greatly from their foraging ways, and it’s amazing how organized their little ecosystem is. There are the worker bees, the drones, and the queen, and they each play their part. Mark covered so much info, including a couple takeaways for when we went up to the roof to observe the hive, such as how to tell the difference between a worker and a drone, how to check for healthy larvae in a hive, and how to spot some common parasites. Harder to do once all suited up and amongst the buzzing bees, but I’m definitely keeping that info in my back pocket.
Will I be keeping bees after this class? Probably not.
What a great experience – nothing beats hands-on learning! Mark was incredibly knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. If you’re in California, Illinois, Texas, or Wisconsin, check out Round Rock Honey Beekeeping Academy. As I mentioned before, it’s a good hands-on class for all levels!
PS – Check out the seester’s much funnier recap of our experience: here!
Disclosure: I was invited to check out an urban beekeeping classes. All honey-loving opinions are my own, and I received no compensation for this post. Thanks, Round Rock Honey Company!