To start off with, or, In the beginning…
Beekeeping is growing as both a hobby and people trying to find ways to work as a professional. The ranks of the “Beginning Beekeepers” have been growing for a few years now pretty regularly.
When people first approach the idea of getting into beekeeping, they generally start looking for resources to learn about doing it first. Where do they begin?
Where do you get your information?
Oh the Information Age has opened the doors to accessing information like mankind hasn’t seen before. There are more beekeeping books than one can count. There are clubs and Associations that have meetings and presentations. There there is the internet and all of the resources of the World Wide Web. Blogs, videos, Wikis, Social media… The list goes on.
It can be overwhelming for the aspiring apiarist to know where and how to start. With such a plethora of options it can be difficult to know where to start, which has “good” information and maybe isn’t the best choice to pay attention to.
With all of that, there is an overwhelming number of options directly aimed at the beginner and emphasizing “Beginning Beekeeping”. People and companies telling you that in getting started, you should trust them to get you on the path to beekeeping success. Ah but who to trust? I always suggest getting a mentor or coach, they can point you to trustworthy resources usually then you can expand from there.
Personally, I don’t look at beekeeping in terms of “beginner” and such. Everything one needs to know at minimum covers everything in the first two years of beekeeping. I refer to that stage or level as “Basic”. Anything you know and learn beyond or expanding upon the basics is “Advanced” beekeeping.
The reason I personally avoid jumping on the “Beginner” bandwagon is that in apicultural pursuits, we are always learning something new. In a sense, we are always a “beginner” at something in beekeeping. I know beekeepers who’ve been at it for thirty years and decide to go into a different aspect like top bar beekeeping and to them, they feel like a “beginner” even though they have the basic beekeeping information down pat and backwards.
As a coach, mentor, instructor and trainer in both hobby and professional beekeeping, I am personally still always learning something new about the field. Every day. I have said before that I am a beginner in perpetuity when it comes to bees and beekeeping because there is just so much we still don’t know or understand yet.
My advice to being a beekeeper
I think Yoda said it best when he told Luke Skywalker, “There is no try, do or do not.”, or something like that. Essentially it comes down to getting in there and playing with bees.
I ALWAYS suggest doing an apprenticeship first. If not an actual training program then a voluntary agreement to assist an experienced and knowledgeable beekeeper if you can find one, for at least one season before getting your own bees.
I like to recommend a pdf book put out by MAAREC called, “Basic Beekeeping” (you can download it for free from the downloads page on this website). I find it to be an exceptional resource and provides the Information one will need to engage in successful beekeeping. Whether it’s at the beginning of your experience or further down the road.
Take actual classes at a local community college or the like. The opportunity to ask questions that a static resource like a book, website or video can’t do will be invaluable. As long as you actually ask the questions. Remember, in a class, there are no stupid questions because the whole point of being there is to learn something new.
Join a local beekeeping association or club if one is available and they are active. Even if you only meet one person that you can connect with, it will be time well spent.
The important thing is to get out there as actually”do” something. Reading about it, watching videos and so on can only give you so much.