Here at Ole Bearz Bees, I often get asked “How do I start Beekeeping?” or “What do I need to do to keep bees?” I enjoy these questions as it reminds me of when I was thinking about becoming a beekeeper. Beekeeping was a personal adventure for me that turned into so much more. I had recently returned from living in bush Alaska and was thinking about my next adventure. I don’t want to be a little old man sitting in a rocking chair someday and wonder “What if I would have….?” I began by doing some general internet searches, watched some you tube videos and found a local beekeeper that would take people to his apiary for a one time paid visit/class. The time was spent with several other people and full of the beginning beekeeper questions, but I was hooked.
Looking back on my experience I would suggest a person read, read and read some more…as well as asking questions to other beekeepers, watching videos, go to beekeeping chat rooms and take a class if you can. I suggest joining a local beekeeping club and also recommend joining the Michigan Beekeepers Association. I would also suggest you sit down and make a list of what your goals are for beekeeping, are you focused on a little honey for your own personal use, are you planning on selling/gifting some, how many hives do you think you want to maintain, what kind of hive do you prefer..langstroth, top bar, warre etc, do you plan to use treatments/medications or be treatment free? These are all just basics questions, but it is very easy to get swayed by many opinions when you are starting…put five Beekeepers together and you may end up getting a dozen different answers to the same question. If you have a general idea of what philosophy you want to follow, you might find it much easier to learn those methods first. You’ll also end up with less gear purchased because someone told you you needed it and you discovered you really didn’t. I would encourage you to understand one thing right from the beginning…you WILL have losses, hives will fail, die or sometimes just leave all together. Sometimes it is the result of something we did, or didn’t do, and sometimes it just happens. Don’t take that as an excuse to not learn all you can, but also give yourself permission to experience disappointment, if this was easy…everybody would be doing it. Try to join more like minded groups on Facebook and trust, but verify, other experienced beekeepers.
We live in a very scientific method based society and we have grown to expect the same result by following the proper directions every time. While this may be true when baking a cake, or making a boxed meal, I want you to remember that you are working with live creatures as well as nature, things happen which are beyond our control. It’s easy to think of beekeeping like driving down a long stretch of highway with guard rails on each side. As long as you don’t have an accident, you can expect to arrive to your destination without much problem. I have learned however, beekeeping is more like taking a canoe down a long winding river, you will need to learn to go with the river instead of fighting it, to get to your destination. You will learn the “signs” of a healthy hive, or a hive in trouble, by spending time in you hive. I encourage you to spend as much time in your hives as reasonably possible, you can often also help other beekeepers with their hive inspections as well, extra eyes…and hands, can be very helpful. Another thing to remember is “Bees don’t read the same books as we do!” You will learn that each hive has it’s own way of doing things and sometimes, it isn’t just how the books say it will be. Each hive is an incredible superorganism and you will become more fond of some than others. You WILL make mistakes, don’t worry we all do, but the you will also learn the bees are very good at “correcting” your behaviors. Beekeeping is much closer to an ultra marathon than a sprint, pace yourself, set your goals, do your preparation and when you are ready…do it!.