Tabling Events

by Rachel Payne

 Tabling Events
A basic set-up. I painted hexagons on a drop cloth, but even a solid tablecloth will work.

The Pineywoods Beekeepers Association has several opportunities throughout the year to promote beekeeping and pollinator stewardship. Many of these are come-and-go public events for all ages. If you’ve never tabled an event, you might be a little apprehensive about it. Here are some ideas to help you. You could also use these tips to set up a table for selling your honey at your local farmers market.

It doesn’t take much to create an inviting and attractive display. You can get by with a table (usually provided by the event coordinators), tablecloth (to make your table look nice and hide all the junk you’ll undoubtedly want to stash underneath it), observation hive (PBA has three available for use), and a few beekeeping supplies, such as your smoker and veil. An observation hive is great for attracting visitors. For many, it’s a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of a beehive. People young and old are fascinated by seeing the bees up close and they enjoy looking for the queen. Some beekeepers like to mark their queens so they’re easier to spot, but don’t worry if yours isn’t marked. It’ll just make finding her a bit more challenging!

If you want to kick it up a notch, take a jar of honey and little spoons for sampling. It’s a good idea to have a plastic container with a lid for disposing of the used spoons; neighborhood bees are attracted to the smell of honey. I also recommend keeping a damp rag handy. It’s impossible to not get sticky when repeatedly squeezing tastes of honey onto small spoons, some held by preschoolers. You might take an empty hive so people can see where your bees normally live. Let them remove the cover and manipulate the frames. If you have pieces of burr comb, you can let your visitors hold it and smell it (caution them to be gentle and not squeeze it). You could also take products of the hive, such as candles and lip balm, as examples of uses for beeswax. Feeling more ambitious? The internet is full of coloring sheets with bees and other pollinators, as well as craft ideas. Take extra beekeeping supply catalogs and Bee School brochures if you think you might meet aspiring beekeepers. Offer honey recipes or maybe even samples of foods made with honey. Flowers, real or artificial, add a nice touch.

You may be thinking, “I can do that, but what do I say?” If you’re a new beekeeper, you might even think, ”I don’t know that much about bees!” I bet you know more than most of the people who’ll visit your table. And it’s perfectly ok to say, “I don’t know.” No one knows everything there is to know about bees. You won’t have to do much to get the conversation going. “Can you find the queen?” is a good start. “Have you ever thought about keeping bees?” is another. A lot of people will approach you with a question or tell you how their grandfather used to keep bees. There’s usually someone with bees in a house, shed, or tree. Some will ask how much it costs to get started keeping bees. At least one person will ask if you’ve heard of the Flow Hive. If you have a marked queen, or if there’s a child who’s seen one at another event, you may be asked if the queen is born with a red dot on her back. Point out larvae, sealed brood, nectar, capped honey. Are there drones? If so, point them out. Sometimes your visitors will get to watch young bees emerging from their cells.

Just be friendly and let people see your enthusiasm for beekeeping!