We had 70 people signed up for the beginning beekeeping course in Atlanta and then some of them join the organization, but I think we would have more interest continuing if two things happened:
1. The course ends with talk about poison in the hives and then Africanized honeybees. Personally I think that scares beekeepers away. I suggested that they end with the honey harvest, but they haven't taken my suggestion for two years running.
That is an interesting suggestion, but for us it's the wrong time of year to harvest.
This year we're going to end the course with an actual install, something I think is necessary instead of sending virgin beeks out into the world installing packages all by themselves without a mentor there to guide them. At least they'll have seen it done once! I'll never forget our first install, and I can't say it's a totally nice memory, although the outcome was great.
2. The meeting immediately after the short course should be appealing to new beekeepers. Last year in the meeting immediately after the short course, I did a funny slide show/PowerPoint on Bee-ing a Beekeeper. This year they incorporated my program into the short course and had Keith Fielder talk about requeening in the meeting immediately after the short course - that's too sophisticated for the beginner who needs a meeting on how to build hive boxes and frames, etc.
We encourage the new, first year beeks to speak at the school and relate how things went for them, that's always interesting - and we have our treasurer who gives her firsthand account of bee sting allergic reactions (she can no longer keep bees, her children do it for her). Not to scare them, but to help make them aware. We lost a long time member this past year to anaphylactic shock due to bee stings :'(
We have a room in the building we meet in where we're going to set up a honey room to both demonstrate extractions and to give people with small harvests a place to do their extracting with the group's two extractors. I'm sure the newbees will be there for the demonstration harvests this fall!
I think beekeeping organizations have a responsibility to keep the topics in the meetings interesting to beginners - not altogether of course, but at least in the immediate meeting following the short course, the meeting should be focused on the beginner.
This year our club is going to start having programs at each meeting, I'm actually giving a little talk on Wednesday about gardening for bees. I don't know if you have to specifically cater to beginners, just cater to beeks in general and everyone will get something out of it!
On a personal note, I have been trying since November to get my blog approved by the powers that bee in the Master Beekeeping Program in Georgia as a "public service credit" I got a letter on Friday from Dr. Keith Delaplane (author of the current edition of Dadant's First Lessons in Beekeeping) saying that after looking at the blog they decided that it did indeed meet the requirements for a public service credit (it is now visited by over 175 visitors a day). Woooo Hoooo :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D
Good for you, Linda! I listed your blog on the Using Internet Resources page I made up to hand out to the bee school students, along with Michael Bush's and a few others. If anyone is interested in it send me a PM and I'll forward it to you. It's nothing we all don't know, but for newbees it's a good start in finding quality info on the internet.
Linda T in Atlanta, smiling