One of the things that doesn’t get enough airtime in the beekeeping community is the stupid things we do. Naturally, we all want to sort of keep that kind of thing quiet. After all, no one likes being the center of attention for messing up. At least, I certainly don’t. However, I’m going to go ahead, take a deep breath, and share some of the rookie beekeeper mistakes that I’ve made that you don’t need to. It’s always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes than your own.
Rookie Beekeeper Mistake #1 – Going Au Natural From Day 1
Once upon a time, in a land far… ok, pretty much everywhere… I am told that beekeeping was pretty easy. There were, of course, some challenges and tasks that needed doing and learning, but by and large if you left the bees to themselves they’d take care of the beekeeping basics. They’d probably take care of the master-class, too. There was no need for fancy chemical treatments in order to give your hive a chance of making it through the year. It sounds pretty blissful. Because the rookie beekeeper mistake I have learned – and made – is that treatment free is a great goal. But a terrible starting point.
Treatment free not only sounds wonderful, but IS wonderful. The bees are going to be a lot stronger in the long-run if you can keep them hanging in there without having to constantly resort to harsh chemicals, antibiotics, and other harsh beekeeping methods. The issue is that going natural is actually a lot harder than using the chemicals. It takes some knowledge and close management and isn’t REALLY a great rookie beekeeper method.
Rookie Beekeeper Mistake #2 – Staying Out of Your Hives
Forums everywhere will tell you how much you are holding your colonies back by getting into them. Then they turn around and tell you the only way to gain experience is to get in them. Whether it is procrastination or trepidation that keeps you out of your hives, not setting a regular schedule of inspections in your first year is a mistake. As a rookie beekeeper, you need the experience of being amongst the bees more than you need the added harvest they’d have if you stayed out of their way. If they survived without your assistance.
As a rookie beekeeper, you need to be amongst them regularly if you’re to have a hope of noticing something out of the ordinary that might stand out from a mile away to a seasoned pro. So for their sake, you need to be in there often, regardless of conventional wisdom. Likewise, you DO need the experience so that you can feel more confident and comfortable around your girls. Finally, but not of any less importance, if you stay out of your hives for too long, you run the risk of forgetting to get back in there at the critical times. Set a schedule and stick to it.
If you’re not sure what kind of a schedule you need, then you’re perfectly ready to examine rookie beekeper mistake #3.
Rookie Beekeeper Mistake #3 – Working It Out Yourself
You might not think you have time to hunt down and attend beekeeping meetings. You might not think anyone wants to become the mentor to a rookie beekeeper. Perhaps you are just anti-social and don’t really want to have to take advice from some know-it-all ‘expert’. Well, I’m sorry to break it to you… You need a mentor. Don’t try and muddle through it yourself. If not because you want to learn quickly and become a good beekeeper, but because you don’t want to kill thousands of your new little friends with your ineptitude.
Sadly, I can tell you from experience that it’s possible. Easy, actually.
I started with four hives, two years ago. None survived their first winter. Looking back, I’m pretty much certain that it was my fault. The next year, I was armed with some knowledge from my failures, and of my seven hives, still 5 of them ended up dead or gone. To say I have been hurting because I am stubbornly ‘teaching myself’ with books, forums, and youtube, would be somewhat of an understatement.
I firmly believe that if I had taken the time to hunt down a willing mentor (and, you’ll discover, beekeepers love to share their knowledge!) I’d still have some of those hives. You can totally learn the way I have. You’ll gain a great education in time. But it won’t be nearly as smooth a road.
There’s a million and one mistakes that you can make as a rookie beekeeper. I don’t think I made all of them… But I made, and am making, more than my fair share. But I love my girls and am determined to continue in this amazing hobby. If you haven’t started yet, check out my post on all the great reasons why you should, and try some of my Chocolate Honey Coconut Fudge for added incentive…
If you are just starting on this amazing journey, welcome! Take the time to look for your local club and let them know that you’re a new beek in need of some help. They’ll do what they can to take you under their wings. Remember, beekeeping puns are not optional, they’re mandatory.