In December last year 2010 I read an article that prompted me to start the quest to know as much as I could about Bee Keeping in NC. Amazon and the internet were my first sources, and while there is plenty out there, as a new beek it is extremely difficult to know what is good advice and what is bad advice. I also discovered a number of forums out there, more on these later.... Luckily I did not take too long to discover the local County Bee Keeping Association and the fact that they run a beginners course every year in January. The Guilford County Bee Keepers Association have a website and I joined it and started asking the typical dumb type questions that newbies do . I also expressed an interest in including my son who was 10 at the time. Amazingly one of the members , looked up my telephone number and called to offer a pre- look at bee "stuff" so that my son would get a great idea of what we were going to do. Thus started the first connection to a group of people who would become a large part of my story this first season. Armed with 1000's of ideas all tumbling around in my head, and with no recognizable organization for those ideas , I started the beginners course. My first class I met up with a few people I know from our community, one had kids with mine at School and we sorta knew each other from functions. So Tim and I started the class with a common interest. Tim also keeps Chickens, and that was another idea that had been tumbling around....... and it too came to fruition in spring, with 6 little bundles of feathers -1 day old. Many of you will not be surprised to know that first person was Iddee, who called out the blue and offered to intro my son and I to Bee keeping. Within two lessons I had been invited to work some winter hives, by another person who would also be a part of this adventure - known here as Jacobs. Rob Jacobs lives very close to Tim and I, and we came out on January 30 on a 60 Deg sunny day to check and feed his winter hives. Working close up with Live bees the first time was intimidating, but Iddee soon showed up and walked right up with no veil or protection and showed that if you respect the bees and work correctly, the bees will mostly leave you alone. He also introduced us to Apitherapy , showing how to sting yourself (or someone else) for pain relief . Either he is a great actor - OR it really works, because he put down his cane and worked the rest of the day without it. The task was to check for brood build up, confirm the queens were laying and feed pollen patties to the hives. We opened 8 of the 10 hives that day. The 6 weeks of lessons ended with the ability to write the NC Certified Beekeeper exam ( not a mandatory exam) but Tim and I both wrote it and passed too. In early March i took a very long flight to visit my dad in South Africa . I asked before i left if he could find out about local beekeepers. The region around Knysna on the South coast is well known for excellent forest honey. My dad without knowing it, already knew the local beek, he ran the electrical store in town, and was soon arranging a tour for me. Corrie keeps about 100 hives spread over 4 apiaries , mostly on fynbos and forest - fynbos is the local heather type bushes that grow on the upper plateau. Some he had on farm land with flowering gum trees, bit like Tupelo. And about 30 were moved around as needed on clovers or Lucerne. He showed me his honey house 30*30 with a home made radial extracter. His hives were all home built from locally sourced pine, and he used upper and lower entrances the size of a 2 liter soda bottle top, thus the tops were also used as entrance blockers when needed. All hives had to have his license painted on them. We visited three regions, and his breeding area of nucs, It was a cool afternoon and we were able to work within 3 ft of the hives without issue, much like here in USA. so much for African honey bees. He shared so much with me, a totally wonderful afternoon. On my return to home mid Mach, within 48 hrs I got a call from Rob asking if I wanted a hive. The catch, I needed to bring my woodenware NOW..... A member close to me had too many hives to look after. At 5pm I loaded up unprinted deeps and mediums, and headed out, 2 hrs later a full hive with deep and two mediums was in my back yard. I had become a beekeeper overnight. In late March Iddee called to ask if I was interested in helping with a bee swarm, -- hell yeah! --So I headed south and helped him bring down a small swarm from a tree, but hours later I was up another tree in Robs backyard , covered in bees after a certain person dropped the whole swarm attached to its brach. Yet another swarm, and nary a sting. My own nucs that I had ordered were still delayed, but a call from my neighbor changed that, a swarm not even 500 yards from home on the farm across the road. Iddee and Rob both came out and we caught a nice swarm , educated a number of the neighbors and housed it in yet another deep...... I was running out of woodenware and I didn't even have my own bees yet. Yeah you older beeks will say the swarm was from my hive....... Nope same old queen in the donated hive. The farmer said he had seen wild hives over the years on their property, plus there are some huge (70 plus feet) trees on the property close to where we found the swarm. I started working to make some more boxes, and soon realized it was cheaper to buy them UNLESS you can get cheap lumber, a call into my good friend who is the sales manager at a lumber yard, netted a number of quality cypress boards that had no home prior to my call. They even surfaced them and cut to approx length , making it easy to transport . This also Resulted in a connection to one of our local bee suppliers, who had commented he was struggling to find enough Cypress, well my friend had a couple of hundred board feet in a yard away from Greensboro, and did a deal. Iddee continued to help me look after the two hives, as well as invite me to numerous bee happenings. We got Tim squared away with his own hive too, which his neighbor immediately offered to help with. My own nucs finally arrived in late May, and I chose to feed them all summer as the flow ended late June. The first hive continued to surprise me, a super was added early May, and another 3 weeks later , and another 2 weeks later. I built a ventilated top board which worked well. I pulled 43 frames off this hive in my first season, talk about a great start for a newbie. The swarm slowly built up and by fall was a solid deep and almost 9 frames capped honey. The two nucs were also slow but one better than other, one ended up 2 supers full, and other just one. Late season I noticed the original hive not doing so well. I had struggled with small hive Beatle all year, did some experimentation with Beatle traps, bu they were always there. My hives get morning thro about 2pm sun, and that is the best I can do on my property. So SHB is always going to be an issue. Well Iddee was called and he suspected varroa mite, but suggested I call in te bee inspector, Don Hopkins. Boy oh boy, what an excellent resource we have here in NC. Don was fantastic, spent well over 90 min with me and even helped me treat the hives after we confirmed Verroa. I had tried to be treatment free, but the bugs got me. The Mite away quick strips worked very well, with big mite drops for first 5 days, and on one hive it also killed a bunch of SHB. Only happened on one hive. Winter proper has been so mild this year with many days the bees have flown, continued to see pollen into December, and as a result I started putting out a feeder , Thirsty bees, a gallon lasts only 3-4 days. Have been feeding a 2:1 mix with a few drops of Honey B Healthy. If the temp is over 50 the bees fly. The weakest hive is still hanging in there, but still not sure if it will make it. And here we are a year later, January 30, exactly a year since I first worked on a hive with Rob and Iddee, all my bees were flying today with a temp of 58 outside, 2 hives are looking awesome, one is fine and the last still limping along and the Red Maple has started flowering, so we are starting a new season officially. Been busy in the shop too, I have 8 new supers ready to go with frames, just need to do the foundation and wiring, i have 3 new deeps and 2 inner covers complete, and one outer cover done, all getting ready for the season. And just because I was not busy enough, I started a Boy Scout Bee Merit Badge project, which I wrote about elsewhere. I am sure I forgot some things, which my blog probably covered, so read along there too, .......but this first year has been a blast, thanks a bunch for all the help, here and in my yard...... Finally if it wasn't for Iddee, I might not have been so involved, thanks.