Synopsis: The main points they don’t inform you on a ’Begin beekeeping’ course are nearly as necessary because the issues they do train. By definition these programs are typically ‘truth heavy’. They omit a number of the much less tangible, and typically much less nice, features of our interest. These are mine, however all skilled beekeepers could have their very own record of what they learnt after the course ended.
I’ve solely taken one ’Begin beekeeping’ course. It was nicely organised, it acquired many of the fundamentals proper (looking back … I clearly no concept on the time 😉 ) and it supplied a superb basis for my first season. Like many of those winter programs, it was unfold over two months and timed to supply a ‘swarm’ of novice beekeepers when it was nearly heat sufficient to open some hives for the sensible classes.
It was held on weekday evenings and consisted of two 45-60 minute classes separated by tea and biscuits. The refreshments had been an integral and important a part of the course. Biscuits – or, higher but, cake – and tea massively enhance the beekeeping expertise.
I’ll return to tea and biscuits in a minute.
The fundamentals included talks on the biology of the honey bee, the beekeeping yr, gear, swarm management, ailments, honey and wax (and a bunch of stuff I’ve forgotten by now). It was due to this fact in all probability like most different programs which are being held up and down the nation in the intervening time.
Nonetheless, good although the course was, there are a bunch of issues the course didn’t cowl, however maybe may have.
Listed below are a few of them …
You’ll spend much more than you anticipate
Beekeeping will be practised comparatively inexpensively, however it usually isn’t.
The lure of the mail-order catalogue is robust.
The ‘prerequisites’ are too quite a few to say.
By the point a brand new beekeeper has purchased a hive, a beesuit, some bees, a nuc field, frames, hive device, smoker and a type of important combo sugar-duster and frame-brushes, there’s in all probability not numerous change out of £500 .
And it may very well be an entire lot extra. A cedar assembled Nationwide hive alone prices nearly £500 lately.
In the beginning it is sensible to purchase secondhand for those who can. So long as the gear comes from a disease-free supply the bees will just do as nicely in a 30 yr outdated cedar field as one bought new. Ask round your affiliation if there are novices from the course final yr who determined beekeeping wasn’t for them …
… and when you’ve got spare gear, supply it to a brand new beekeeper quite than discovering a nook of the shed to cover it in for an additional yr or two. Once I left the Midlands I gave away a lot of home made nuc bins and different equipment, a lot of which was completely serviceable and remains to be in use now.
And do not forget that though you usually purchase beekeeping gear flat-packed, you possibly can’t retailer it flat-packed … all these bins take a lot of house and also you’re going to wish an even bigger shed.
Bear in mind additionally that the ’speculate to build up’ justification i.e you want extra supers/nuc bins or no matter to generate profits out of your bees, will be simply undermined by awful swarm management or a cool, moist summer season.
It would work for a yr or two … however I can assure it doesn’t work for a decade 😉
Observe, suppose, have a cuppa, then do …
There are few issues in beekeeping that want fast consideration.
’Act in haste, repent at leisure’ is an aphorism that’s value remembering.
If you’re confronted with an issue you don’t perceive it’s usually a good suggestion to shut up the hive and take a while to consider issues.
The basic ’Aargh! panic’ state of affairs for brand spanking new beekeepers is discovering sealed queen cells within the hive and instantly squidging all of them to stop the upcoming lack of a swarm.
What else was within the hive?
Did you see the queen? No … however then you definitely’ve not seen her for weeks, so what’s new?
However you don’t have to see the queen to be fairly sure that the colony is queenright. All you’ll want to see are eggs. An egg takes three days to hatch after, so for those who can see eggs you will be sure that there was a queen current throughout the final 3 days .
Did you see eggs? Er, no.
What about growing larvae? You’ll be able to’t bear in mind?
In fact, the seemingly state of affairs is that the queen cells had been sealed as a result of the colony has already swarmed. There are not any eggs or younger larvae (or presumably any larvae) as a result of the outdated queen vamoosed with the swarm a number of days in the past.
So, by performing in haste – and crushing all these sealed queen cells – the colony is left with no growing queens and no larvae from which to supply a brand new queen.
In actual fact, the colony is now terminally queenless 🙁
Much better – on discovering the queen cells – to have a superb look by way of the remainder of the hive, shut it up and have a suppose and a cuppa whilst you work out the right plan of action.
Then act …
You’ll make errors
“We be taught from failure, not from success!” .
I’ve made numerous errors when beekeeping.
I’ve had numerous failures.
However, by excited about the place I went fallacious, I’ve usually learnt easy methods to keep away from doing it once more .
Most likely my first actual clanger was inadvertently and unknowingly crushing the queen on my second or third ever inspection.
But it surely will get worse.
On the subsequent inspection, every week later, I (unsurprisingly) found a load of queen cells.
Uh oh! Swarming already?
In case you re-read the part above I describe precisely how I handled that little conundrum 😉
I knocked again all of the queen cells and solely retrospectively puzzled why there have been no eggs or larvae within the hive.
It was a helpful studying expertise.
Beekeeping appears fairly straightforward, however there’s lots to be taught and the bees don’t at all times do fairly what’s anticipated of them. A mix of fine remark, good document retaining and retrospective thought ought to imply that the errors you’ll inevitably make aren’t wasted alternatives to learn to keep away from a repeat efficiency.
I don’t suppose I’ve ever left a colony terminally queenless in the identical method once more, however I’ve had ample different ’studying alternatives’ in subsequent years.
Maybe fewer annually, however sufficient to maintain me entertained … and educated.
Don’t underestimate the advantages of mentoring
Most nicely organised and accountable associations will ‘buddy up’ trainee beekeepers with a extra skilled mentor. The thought is that the mentor is out there to offer assist and recommendation as and when wanted. When it really works nicely it’s an incredible association.
You may get your first nuc out of your mentor, and you might get some assist along with your first couple of hive inspections. If issues go fallacious, and they’re going to (see above), your mentor ought to be capable of present the recommendation wanted to keep away from turning a drama right into a disaster.
I wrote about ’Higher mentoring’ a number of years in the past. It’s a publish that might in all probability do with an replace.
Nonetheless, the true ’advantages of mentoring’ are in all probability to be gained once you’re the mentor, not the mentee.
Mentors don’t should be massively skilled beekeepers. In actual fact, I’d argue that it’s typically higher in the event that they solely have a season or two of profitable beekeeping below their belt.
A really skilled beekeeper in all probability is aware of all of the solutions , however the mentee will solely correctly be taught once they’re helped quite than instructed. In distinction, with one or two (profitable) years expertise, the mentor is aware of sufficient of the the fundamentals to keep away from disasters, however is extra more likely to do the ‘pondering out loud’ and work by way of the issue with the mentee.
And, whereas doing this ‘pondering out loud’ the mentor additionally learns.
Did I already say that tea and cake helps? It does.
I learnt extra about beekeeping when mentoring others than when being mentored .
If and once you get the chance to mentor a brand new beekeeper seize it. You may really feel you don’t know all of it (you don’t), however you in all probability know sufficient. And, by being a mentor, you’ll get to know an entire lot extra.
It may be exhausting bodily work
Except you’re younger and match and powerful, and even for those who’re younger and match and powerful, beekeeping shall be powerful in your again. Hives are heavy, however moved comparatively sometimes. Supers will be very heavy and – with luck – you’ll be lifting lots a few times a season.
And it’s not simply your again.
Frames, notably frames stuffed with shops, are heavy. Except I’m cautious I get aches and pains in my fingers from the pressure of dealing with a lot of frames throughout inspections .
I don’t bear in mind any of this being mentioned in my ’Begin beekeeping’ course.
I’ve had one or two seasons spoilt by a foul again. Most not too long ago it was as a result of tripping over one thing in lengthy grass when carrying three full supers. That is positively not really useful. The bees had been upset and I had again pains till the top of the season.
Discover ways to raise correctly. Be sure to have clear house round your ft and someplace appropriate to put the moved bins. All completely apparent and really a lot a case of do as I say, don’t do as I do.
However the bodily nature of beekeeping doesn’t cease with lifting.
Most beesuits present good safety in opposition to bees, however solely by being made from quite thick materials. Subsequently, on a scorching day, they will get very heat certainly. The veil reduces air motion round your head, so the pure cooling from perspiration isn’t very efficient.
Admittedly they’re not wanted lots in Scotland, however these gel-filled, water-soaked neck wraps are glorious. They supply cooling for hours at a time. I’ve had mine for about 20 years now and I’m unsure if there’s a UK distributor, although you may get them in Holland.
Or simply go away the inspection to a cooler day 😉
You’ll lose swarms
In about my third season I had about half a dozen colonies. I’d completed some splits the yr earlier than and had my first tentative go at queen rearing.
I used to be starting to essentially take pleasure in beekeeping.
Which didn’t imply I essentially was any good at it, or had a lot of a clue about what to do 😉
At one level in late Could or early June I didn’t have a single hive with a laying queen in it. They’d all swarmed.
I had at the least discovered to not knock again all of the queen cells. A small victory.
Queen open mating success is about 75-80% and I believe all of the hives had been finally queenright. Nonetheless, I nonetheless felt each helpless and hopeless standing in an apiary with 6 hives and no queens.
I believe the key of swarm prevention is to begin early … younger queens, give them house and so on.
I know the key of swarm management is to make use of a technique you completely perceive and have complete confidence in. Study why it really works, be taught the wrinkles. Perceive the timing of no matter hive manipulations are wanted.
It may be one thing so simple as making up a nuc with the outdated queen and letting the colony re-queen itself. Or it would contain a Snelgrove board, a 47 web page handbook and visits to the apiary each 21 hours for 3 weeks to open and shut all these damned doorways.
No matter floats your boat.
Unsurprisingly I exploit the nucleus technique for 90% of my swarm management, and in a few years use nothing else.
In my fingers it’s fool proof. It must be.
Since you’ll lose a swarm or two, set out bait hives. In case you’re fortunate your swarm will take up residence and you’ll faux you by no means misplaced it within the first place.
In case you’re actually fortunate you’ll discover scout bees trying out your bait hive, realise there’s a colony pondering of swarming close by, verify your personal hives and uncover an unsealed queen cell.
Maintain your veil on to cover that smug smile 😉
One of many expertise new beekeepers want to accumulate is easy methods to decide the temperament of a colony. Some bees are naturally feisty and, figuring out this, you don your beesuit and gloves nicely upfront . Different bees are calm and keep calm no matter abuses are visited upon them. You drop a body – or a brilliant – they buzz round a bit of however stay remarkably unfazed.
However most bees are between these extremes. They’re effective till they are saying ’sufficient’s sufficient’.
The primary secret of not getting stung is to keep away from forcing the bees to change into defensive. Don’t crush bees when manipulating frames or changing queen excluders. It takes a number of seconds extra to do it gently having brushed/inspired the bees out of the way in which. Keep away from opening the hive in thundery climate.
However the different secret of not getting stung is with the ability to decide that the colony is getting riled up. In case you realise they’re getting agitated you’ll take additional care.
You may even determine to shut up the colony and begin once more one other day.
There’s no disgrace in a tactical withdrawal …
In the event that they’re actually agitated the opposite factor to take care with is eradicating your beesuit. I usually don’t react to stings on the hand, forearm, ankle or higher thigh , however I react badly when stung on the face.
Stings across the lips, eyes or tongue will be quickly disfiguring and, for some, harmful and even life-threatening.
The few actually dangerous stings I’ve acquired had been to the face after eradicating my veil too quickly after inspecting a poorly tempered colony .
That is the explanation I contemplate ‘following’ one of many worst potential traits in bees, and one thing I rigorously exclude when choosing inventory for queen rearing (or colonies for requeening).
You may be amazed how good your first honey is
In case you get to late August with a robust queenright colony and a body or three of honey, nicely completed. You’re half strategy to changing into a beekeeper.
Benefit from the honey. It tastes even higher figuring out that you just labored with the colony to supply it.
You’ll miraculously develop a wider circle of pals, and long-lost members of the family will seem desirous to know all about your new interest.
And check the honey 😉
In your first season simply purchase 4 oz or 8 oz jars … any bigger and there gained’t be sufficient to go spherical 😉
Get the bees by way of the winter, wholesome, queenright and increasing nicely, and also you’ll have efficiently accomplished your first full yr.
Now you’re a beekeeper 🙂