Learn the Beekeeping, Be the Beekeeping

 “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” –Eartha Kitt, Singer/Actor


 

Did you ever have a dream that you’re back in high school and all of a sudden the teacher starts handing out a test you just know you never studied for? The horror of staring down at questions that barely seem to be written in a recognizable language flood your vision, and the panic rises into a scream that wakes you up from your chaotic slumber… I suppose you’re wondering where I’m going with this.  I bet you think I’m going to compare this to learning about beekeeping or something.

 

A lot less dramatic…

Do your research… bee action figures not required, but highly recommended.

The truth is you gotta start somewhere, and if becoming a beekeeper is your goal, your recipe for success starts with learning… and a cup more learning… and then throw in a dash more after that. You know what?  Just keep the curiosity and will to learn.  Reading that first beekeeping book after getting excited about bees, in my opinion, is always going to be the hardest.  To me, it certainly felt like a bit of an information overload and that I was staring at a foreign language, but the drive to try something new, exciting and interesting outweighed any initial hint of discouragement.

 

Pick-a-Beek’s Brain

A treasure trove of beekeeping information is only an association meeting away!

Here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, you might hear that it’s never wise to swim alone when swimming out in water over your head.  I think that’s advice that can be applied to many tasks in life, including beekeeping. I found and became a member of a local beekeepers’ club and instantly gained access to the knowledge of people who have been beekeeping for decades.  Everyone has been super friendly, and the best part is we all share one interest: bees.  It’s in this environment that one can find the information (take their beekeeping class if one’s offered) and guidance needed (maybe even find a mentor) to get them through the first year… and many years after that. 

Also, the realization that I’m not alone in my first year beekeeping adventure has been extremely encouraging. Several other newbees are at the beekeeping association meetings, and I’ve heard from several of you online. I’m looking forward to sharing our progress and pitfalls with one another, as it’s not always easy being the new kid on the block. I’m hoping that we all have a successful year and gain a lot of experience. We got this!

 

In my humble opinion…

Seeking out education and immersing yourself in a beekeeping club is not a guarantee for an automatically successful first year.  No amount of knowledge on a subject is going to make up for putting in some hard work and dedication. However, using your newfound knowledge and applying it to whatever comes your way and establishing personal connections with experienced beekeepers are two very large steps in the right direction for success.  So I strongly recommend devouring up educational material, jumping into friendly discussions with your local beeks, taking a class or two, and finding a mentor.  Learn the beekeeping, be the beekeeping. 

I’ve been keeping a busy reading schedule, so I thought I’d include them below:

Krista’s Learn the Beekeeping Book List (in no particular order):

 

27 thoughts on “Learn the Beekeeping, Be the Beekeeping

Leave a Reply to Michael Goudy Cancel reply

  1. Karen Rubin

    Thank you for this post. We are new beeks (bee school tomorrow!) and got in some water “over our heads” with a swarm we (accidentally) caught. I was so grateful that I’d made a few connections & a generous soul made time to help us in person. We thought we had the learning on lock . . . but nothing beats “hands on.” Bee school (with the nearest club) is tomorrow. Can’t wait to get the new gals in my new Mann Lake hives! Thanks!

    1. Krista

      Hi Karen!
      You will have an awesome story to tell at bee school with that swarm catch! Best of luck in all your beekeeping endeavors!

  2. Albert McBee

    I am going on into my 5th year as a “newbee”. Every time I look at my bees, they teach me something. Today, I got 2 reinforcing lessons on not messing with a colony when the wind is blowing and there is a little rain in it. They don’t like it. The second lesson is to Always wear at least a head veil when working the bees.
    Last week I rescued a small colony from a fallen tree in Webbers Falls. There was little honey, but msny combs full of brood. I brushed the SHB off the combs and brought them home, placing them in a nuke with all the bees caught in the bee-vac. The queen was dead, crushed by the weight of the combs. I added a frame of honey and now I watch to see if they create a queen from an egg in the comb.

    1. Krista

      Thank you for passing on your lessons, Albert. I’m learning quite a bit just from the discussions on the blog! Keep me posted on the progress of your rescue colony, I’m curious to learn if they create a new queen and flourish. I also want to say that you have an awesome attitude, Albert. Your willingness to be open to what your bees are teaching (even if it involves a sting) is commendable. Best of luck in all your beekeeping endeavors!

  3. Gemma Tarlach

    And here I thought I was the only NewBee blogging about my first year as a beekeeper, stocking up on Mann Lake components and throwing in the occasional Lord of the Rings reference. We even have the same books on our shelves. Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures! Let’s Bee Friends.

    1. Krista

      Hi Gemma!
      You have amazing taste in literature! Best of luck to you this season and keep me posted on your progress!

  4. Mary Cahill Roberts

    I well remember those days. I did not take my first class until October 6 months after I had my bees. I think that you are spot on by encouraging everyone to join a club. The people are nice. I still read today all the new articles and find I learn something quite often, so even after 11 years you still don’t know everything!!!

    1. Krista

      Thank you, Mary! Best of luck in all your beekeeping endeavors!

  5. Darrell Laymon

    I am thinking of becoming a beekeeper and I want all the knowledge I can get.

    1. Krista

      Hi Darrell,
      I can’t stress enough how much being around other beekeepers has helped me learn. Just immersing yourself in the lingo and conversations with them makes any books or classes you’ll take make more sense. Also, maybe one of them will be willing to mentor or at the very least let you assist them with their hives. Good luck, Darrell and I hope you decide to have your own beekeeping adventures someday!

  6. Fred Lucci

    The CT Beekeepers Association is huge. There is no way to get questions answered! I have one friend that raises bees but his die every year so I don’t want to learn bad lessons. For me It’s Youtube and books. Can’t wait for my Nucs to get here next month.

    Although, I’m getting the impression I shouldn’t have bought the Nucs and went with package bees. I’m nervous I”m going to get horrible comb and an old queen.

    1. Krista

      Hi Fred!
      Youtube and books are effective tools as well, and if they’re what works – go for it!

      As for the nuc issue, keep me posted. I was always under the impression that nucs were a good idea because of the head start the bees have. I can totally see what you meant by a horrible nuc situation, but hopefully this should not be the situation if it’s coming from a reputable dealer.

  7. Carolyn Nicoli

    I’m excited to read your blog, I too am a newbee. This will be my first real year with my own bees.
    My plan was to shadow my mentor for a year before diving in but she had other plans for me. She gave me a swarm last year, mid summer, sadly they did not survive our Northern New Hampshire winter. I will be starting this year with a Nuc and a Package in order to compare and contrast.
    Congratulations on your new adventure, I look forward to learning with you. I think we will face some of the same hardships due to our northern location….. best of luck!!!

    1. Krista

      Hi Carolyn,
      Thank you for the well wishes! Best of luck to you in all your beekeeping endeavors! Keep me posted on your progress, I’d love to compare notes!

  8. Jolene Wickel

    We are also newbees, awaiting two nucs, which will be available for pick up on May 5. We’re excited, nervous, and trying to think positive!! We’ve heard so many stories of new beekeepers losing their bees to freezing weather or just leaving!! Here’s hoping!!

    1. Krista

      Hi Jolene,

      I’m in the same boat with you! It’s hard to imagine that my bees will be here in less than 3 weeks when we just got a huge heap of snow in Minnesota. Here in Hackensack, MN we certainly did not get as much as the Twin Cities but it still seems far from “bee weather.” Fingers crossed for some sunshine!

      1. Penny Lange

        I am getting my bees this Saturday as well…I’m excited, but a bit nervous. I sure hope all the research and prep I have done will give the girls an awesome home. I am worried about our long, okay, SUPER long and COLD winters….I probably need to worry about them surviving the summer first lol, then worry about winter. I don’t know anybody that has bees, but I will be praying it goes well!! :0)

  9. Ben Myhre

    I am on year two and still pretty nervous about getting another hive. BUT… they are coming, so I better be ready.

    Perhaps I was just lucky in my first year, but feel like I did learn some things.

    1. Bees gonna do what bees gonna do.

    2. Always check to make sure your beekeeping gear is closed all the way. Three stings to the face and a brief moment of terror taught me that.

    1. Krista

      Solid advice, Ben! I can imagine that bees in the suit is never a fun time! Good luck in all your beekeeping endeavors!

  10. Patti Wells

    I love this blog. This is my first year as a Beek (great term!!). I’m keeping my bees near Fergus Falls however I live in the Twin Cities. I came out of my first class energized and enthused. That was back in October. Now – in April – with the snow still flying I’m getting very nervous! I have my bees in a 5 frame nuc with all the holes plugged and I’m keeping them in my utility room so that they stay warm. Hopefully it will get warmer by next weekend so I can put them in their fancy brand new home in the woods next weekend. Fingers crossed!!

    Keeping bees my first year is overwhelming enough. Then Mother Nature joined the party and made the weather challenging! If I can get my bees through until the flowers start blooming I’ll be pretty proud of myself and my bees!!!

    1. Krista

      Hi Patti!
      I agree with you, this crazy weather in Minnesota may make it a challenging/interesting start to beekeeping. I guess on a positive note, no matter the outcome we will get a fine learning experience on the relationship between beekeeping and our lovely MN climate:)

  11. Thomasine Sanguedolce

    Excitedly and nervously awaiting our bees arrival in 2 weeks. My husband and I have been to 2 Bee Schools (full day classes), one Beginning Beekeeping Class, and have attended one local beekeepers meeting. We hope we have learned enough to get us through our first spring and summer. Look forward to your posts.

    1. Krista

      Thank you, Thomasine!
      It certainly sounds like you’ve been busy! Thank you and good luck!

  12. Michael Goudy

    Hi Krista
    I have started over 2 years in a row. Started out my first year just reading info. Didn’t want to treat for mites. Wanted to go natural. Now fast forward 3 years and and about 16 hours of lectures. I still feel that I only have gained minimal Bee knowledge. But I started to do things differently and 2 of my 3 hives overwintered this year. I will be putting out a swarm trap this week. With hopes of capturing a swarm. Thanks for your blog. The more info the better!!
    Michael Goudy

    1. Krista

      Hi Michael,

      Congrats on your success with getting 2 out of 3 hives through the winter and good luck in all your beekeeping endeavors! I hope you catch a swarm, keep me posted! Thank you!

  13. Greg

    Great work on the blog, and welcome to beekeeping!
    I started 3 years ago and couldn’t agree more on the importance of education and meeting other beekeepers. I joined a local club right away and ordered my two packages through them. They offered “101” classes during monthly meetings starting in January and running through the Fall so newbies were ready for the packages to arrive and had the skills to get them started and then ready for winter.
    Within the first year, I also decided to join the state club (Texas Beekeepers Association) and have learned so much at the 3 annual conventions that I have attended. I would encourage everyone to also join state and/or national associations if possible.
    Finally, another great opportunity is to get started on a Master Beekeeper program. Texas started this a few years ago and borrowed a lot of the material to get started from Florida. Our new Texas Apiary Inspector at the time had moved from Florida and helped our Agrilife folks get the program started. I finished the Apprentice and Advance levels, and am back to work on the Master level after taking a short break to work on my Quality Dairy Producer (Nubian dairy goats) certification. FYI, goat cheese and a candied pecan on a cracker and drizzled with honey makes a fabulous appetizer!

    1. Krista

      Thank you, Greg!
      What great advice! Additionally joining your states’s association and continuing on with a Master Beekeepers program sounds like the way to go! Best of luck to you with your bees (and your goats) and all your beekeeping adventures to come! I’m definitely craving some of that goat cheese and honey now!