|Posted by email@example.com on April 4, 2012 at 4:45 PM|
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?