|Posted by Beelieve on November 9, 2012 at 1:10 AM||comments (2)|
Beware Of The Bee Club Killers
by Chappie McChesney, Alachua, FL
Originally published in the American Bee Journal, November 2010
We who live in the South have seen the headlines screaming in the papers and on our local newscasts: “Beware the Killer Bees, Beware the Killer Bees!!!”
Newscasters and newsprint publishers like sensationalism and get as much coverage as they can to boost their ratings and sell their product. They will search out anyone who has been stung by a bee and try to tie it into the Africanized Bees, referred to as “AHB” by most folks in the bee world and “Killer Bees” by the public. Sometimes they report AHB stings in areas where there are no AHB. You can go on any search engine and type in, “AHB locations in US,” and you will find maps, charts and lots of information on the AHB.
Are they dangerous? Of course, they are just as dangerous as any stinging insect is dangerous if you have a bad encounter with them. The problem with AHB is that they are more aggressive than the European honey bees or Apis mellifera. They don’t just chase you away from their nest or hive, but continue to aggressively chase you for a half mile or more.
The AHB have caused some long-time beekeepers to leave the business due to the extra cost of insurance, extra gear needed to work AHB, and of course the cost of hiring people dedicated enough to put up with the extra work needed to make a living with AHB. Since AHB swarm more than the European bees that beekeepers have been keeping for years, it takes much more time and effort to work them, but it can be done and is being done in parts of the world where the AHB have taken over the area.
They are a problem that can be dealt with, but we have a bigger problem facing beekeepers around the world and it may happen in your local area as well, even if you are not in an area where the AHB are located.
What I am referring to are the folks who are not into beekeeping for the right reasons. They seem so eager to get into beekeeping, coming to the meetings of your local bee club, asking a million questions and appearing to be willing to become a great asset to the club.
The problem arises usually after a year or two when they get to the point that they now “know everything” and want to be the person in charge. I call these folks “Bee Killers”. They are dangerous and need to be watched for.
Did they put in their time learning under a mentor and working with the bees for years out in the rain, heat, cold, and taking the thousands of stings that happen when a forklift flips over or a truck gets into an accident and the millions of bees are aggravated and in a stinging mood? Have they ever gotten their veil caught on something and had it pulled off just as the bees attacked? Ouch! Have they lost entire out yards to vandals, fire or diseases like foulbrood? Or worse, did they lose hives and equipment to the thieves that are becoming more prevalent now that the price of honey is going up and the demand for pollination goes higher?
Many old-time beekeepers will not join a bee club because of all the problems they have faced over the years with these Bee Killers. I stopped attending meetings myself back in the 1980’s because of this very thing. Now after retiring, I am trying to do my part to help our bees and other pollinators by starting new bee clubs and mentoring new beekeepers.
Beekeepers are a kind lot and welcome with open arms anyone who likes honey, wants to learn the correct ways of keeping bees, or just wants to help save the bees from all the harmful chemicals and bee pests in the world today. But who wants to attend a meeting where one side is antagonistic to the others?
State and even national bee organizations need to stress the importance that all organizations should strive to be efficiently run and have some type of support system in place to help the local bee clubs. Many folks ask why they should join a state or national organization: “Why spend money on an organization that is just building up their mailing list so they can ask you for more money constantly?”
A good club should strive for 100% participation.
If you want to be a beekeeper, you should stop and ask yourself the following questions:
* Am I trying to learn all I can about bees and the proper way to keep them?
* Am I supporting the club leaders and offering my time and talents to make the club better?
* Am I willing to make changes in the way I keep my bees if someone shows me a better way?
* Am I willing to support someone even if I disagree with what they are doing until a better solution comes along?
* Am I willing to step up and do what is best for the club?
* Am I willing to ask questions if I don’t understand what is being said, instead of just complaining about how the “clique” only cares about itself?
We have folks who hate commercial beekeepers. One told me she hates them because they adulterate their honey, use chemicals that are not good for humans to eat, and keep the small beekeepers down so that they can’t make any money. When asked for proof, you get the same answer: “Well, that’s what I heard.” That is a Bee Killer attitude.
Think about what you are saying. Have you ever been a commercial beekeeper with the unbelievable costs and problems that go with it? If you haven’t been there, give it a rest and be thankful for the ones who spend so much time away from family and friends to make sure we have honey in the stores, not to mention all the other products they provide.
What about the commercial beekeepers who won’t help the small beekeeper? I have heard commercial beekeepers complain that “hobbyists” (I hate that word) are ruining beekeeping because they don’t know what they are doing and they are helping to spread bee diseases, etc.
Wait a minute. Did you start with the 1000 hives you have, or did you work your way up by increasing each year? Did an old timer help you learn what you know now, or did someone loan you the money to buy the equipment you have? Did someone help you along? Don’t be a Bee Killer by discouraging the new beekeeper who may replace you some day.
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on April 4, 2012 at 4:45 PM||comments (0)|
Just found this cute blog post on another site. What have YOU learned the hard way so far?
Top 5 Things I Learned the Hard Way as a Beekeeper
Much of the fun of beekeeping is that one is always learning. I’ve been in rooms with beekeepers in their 70′s and 80′s who are still learning new things about honeybees and beekeeping. Being a lifelong learner, this is right up my alley. Still, it does sting a bit when mistakes are made as a beekeeper. Beekeepers can be hard on themselves – but honeybee health is due to many complicated factors, and we must move forward and use what we learn to make it better next time.
I’m preparing to teach a beginner beekeeping workshop this weekend, and it got me thinking about what I’ve learned not to do – the hard way. I thought I’d share some of these experiences with you.
5. Don’t buy the 5 gallon bucket of high fructose corn syrup (hfcs) that the beekeeping supply company will try to sell you.
My first year of beekeeping, it felt like there were so many puzzle pieces to fit together. I didn’t really know anyone yet to ask - and there weren’t quite so many web resources as there are now. I found myself 1 1/2 hours away on Derby day (I live in Louisville, so many things revolve around the first day in May!), ready to pick up my 2 packages of bees, and realized I would need to plan to feed them. I was picking up my bees from a beekeeping supply store, and they recommended I buy a 5 gallon bucket of HFCS. Well it was early May with the nectar flow on and for just two packages of bees I would never need 5 gallons of the stuff. Even more importantly – I found out later that I could make my own simple sugar syrup. I add medicinal plants to make basically a sweet tea. Still not ideal, but MUCH better of an option.
Now when I must feed, I try to feed local clean honey from a trusted beekeeper. This has proven to work very well for me.
4. WHY the old timers say you must have two hives.
I’m a bit stubborn – and really like to know the ‘why’ of things. I don’t buy into things just because ’that’s how they’re supposed to be done.’ As an urban, small yard beekeeper, I didn’t like hearing that you couldn’t do one hive, you had to do two. There was never an explanation, just that’s how you did it. Well, you can see the small backyard that I’ve got – and I to this day have happy neighbors who like their local beekeeper. I don’t think I’ll ever have more than one hive in my backyard. BUT…what I would tell a new beekeeper is – if you can have only one in your yard, by year 3 find another nearby location to have two more hives. Enough cannot be said for the important resources that can be shared among hives. Two things offhand – precious queen cells and brood if one hive has queen issues. It’s great to be able to focus on making a split from hive while the other two focus on honey. When you only have one precious hive, it limits what you might be willing to do (and learn from) because you can’t risk it.
3. Find a willing mentor:
Those of you who know me know I have a shy streak. In our local beekeeping club, it’s a bit tough to find a mentor and there’s not yet a formal process to help make matches. This is one of the best things a local club can offer new beekeepers, as once you’re in the hive, it can really help to have someone there to explain what you’re seeing (or didn’t even notice!). I would have been more focused on figuring out how to get an experienced mentor then. It could have saved me from some of the troubles I’ve had to learn the hard way.
2. Become a member of your local beekeeping club asap!
In our local club, membership has its privileges. Members are on a valuable e-mail list where local hot topics are shared, resources are posted (like swarm calls and available local nucs). For the natural beekeeper, the local network is really important. I waited too long to pay my membership dues (a modest $8 annually) and lost out on being connected to the group via the e-mail list, missing out on valuable opportunities as a new beekeeper.
1. Trust your gut.
Most importantly of all, when my gut is telling me that there’s got to be a better way – there usually is. Beekeeping can get complicated really fast. Conventional beekeeping is deeply entrenched in chemical heavy agribusiness. It can be tough to find out better ways of doing things. I am continually reminded that I’ve good instincts when it come to beekeeping in ways that supports healthy honeybees. Continuing to learn while listening to my gut is how I practice beekeeping.
Ok - your turn. What are some of the things you would share with a new beekeeper so they wouldn’t have to learn them the hard way?