Beekeeping is Booming in Woodstock
In June 2021, Woodstock was certified as a Bee City USA, joining many other cities across the country in improving their landscapes for pollinators. Jamey Snyder, Woodstock’s recreation operations manager, and Shannon Sorescu, Woodstock Community Garden’s beekeeper, are committed to educating others in beehive creation and maintenance. Sorescu is teaching classes as part of the 2022 Bee Hive Maintenance series, and gives insight into her background and the message she’s sharing.
How did you get involved with Woodstock Community Garden and become the beekeeper?
I am a resident of the city of Woodstock, and I got involved with the community garden in 2020 by becoming a member with a leased plot. During that first year, I made friends with several other members and talked about my bees I had at home, and the idea was taken to Jamey Snyder, who put the plan into motion.
Describe the 2021 community garden harvest.
We had a sweet honey harvest last year! We received 5 gallons of honey from one hive. I decided not to harvest all of the honey so that the bees would have their own honey supply for the winter. If I had taken it all, we would have had 10 gallons, but then the bees would have needed heavy feeding of sugar syrup for the winter. The harvested honey was distributed to the community garden members, and everyone said it was some of the best honey they had ever tasted! We harvested the honey in June, right after the spring flowers, so this honey was a clover/wildflower blend. It had a light aroma and a complex floral taste.
How did you learn to keep bees, and how has that impacted your teaching style?
I learned mostly from books and online videos. I had a mentor who also was available to help me when I had questions. I am a hands-on learner, and I believe that is how I would describe my teaching style as well. Bees are different from any other agricultural animal — you really have very little influence over what they decide to do for their colony.
Beekeeping should really be called bee watching. A beekeeper must become familiar with the signs of a healthy colony versus a struggling colony, and learn how to quickly provide what the colony needs to sustain itself. I think the best way for anyone to learn the art of beekeeping is to find a mentor first, and follow that mentor throughout an entire season to become familiar with the bees’ behavior. That is
the main reason we are offering the hive maintenance classes this year.
What is your favorite thing about keeping bees; how would you encourage others?
At first, I thought honey was going to be the best part, but that quickly changed! My favorite thing about honeybees is their democratic society. It is fascinating to watch how they work together. Every decision they make is for what is best for the colony, not the queen, not the brood; the colony’s survival is the primary goal. The way they communicate with each other, their amazing ability to perform so much work while being so small, and their instinct to know what is needed in the colony is an inspiration to me to look beyond myself and see that I am here to serve my community. My words of encouragement to someone starting out would be, there are no mistakes. You will feel like you have failed when your bees swarm, or you lose a queen, or your bees die, but those are not mistakes. They are very valuable learning experiences, and you should learn from the bees.
What is the biggest take-away for participants?
I hope my class participants will come away with a better understanding of the biology of honeybees and that their role as a beekeeper is to support the hive, not manage it.
How has beekeeping grown in Woodstock, and what does the Bee City USA certification mean for residents?
I think beekeeping is on the rise in our city. In September, there were several participants in an informational session about what it takes to start beekeeping. There also is a new, local club based out of Canton (Etowah River Beekeepers) that supports local beekeepers. The Bee City certification will have the greatest impact on residents in the area of reduced use of pesticides and more organic, natural practices for supporting our local pollinator population. Woodstock’s Parks for Pollinators Committee has many projects that will be noticed at local public parks and areas to support our native pollinators. These projects and the reduced use of mosquito spraying and pesticides/herbicides will benefit residents’ health and will be aesthetically pleasing when visiting these public areas.
Bee Hive Maintenance classes are offered in quarterly sessions. For registration and more information, visit woodstockparksandrec.com.
Feb. 17: Winter Feeding: What and how to feed a late winter colony; journal keeping.
March 26: Bee Package Installation: Installing bees into a hive with a queen.
April 21: Here We “Flow”: Managing a hive during peak nectar flows.
May 19: Swarm Management: How to reduce a swarm loss.
June 16: Sweet Rewards: Harvesting honey.
July 21: Summer Dearth: Colony needs during heat, drought and nectar dearth.
Aug. 18: Colony Pests: Take care of the bees that will care for your winter bees.
Sept. 15: Autumn Chores: Queenless hives, mite counts and food stores.
Oct. 20: Preparing for Winter: Winterizing hives.
Nov. 17: Monitoring Feed Levels: Using feed supplements.
Dec. 15: What Did I Learn: Our greatest lessons come from our mistakes.