Backyard Beekeeping With Confidence
Many people who are beginning to keep bees in their backyards are not actually beekeepers. That may sound strange, but, like me when I first attempted to raise bees, many just don’t know what they’re doing. I was a bee-haver, meaning I had bees, but that’s about it. Many beekeepers never really become beekeepers, but only remain bee-havers. There are several reasons why people remain bee-haves and never become beekeepers, but I think the biggest reason is FEAR. Bee-havers simply do not feel confident in their skills. They are afraid that their lack of knowledge will result in doing something wrong and may kill their bees, and in the process, they end up under-tending their hives.
As a result of this fear, most bee-havers know only enough to install a package, dump expensive and unnecessary medication on their bees, watch them die in the winter, and buy packages the following year only to repeat the same techniques that may have led to their bees failing the first time. We’ve got to break this cycle! Here are a few ways to gain confidence as you tend to your bees:
Education is key. With a bit more education and mentorship, a bee-haver can become a beekeeper and develop a level of skill, knowledge and confidence that can catapult their beekeeping hobby to a whole new level of success. And I’m not talking about simply reading this and going for it. No matter how “book-taught” a beekeeper is, the best education is through a hands-on course with experienced beekeepers. While you’re researching, check out the Honeybees and Beekeeping Blog, which provides a place where experienced beekeepers share their stories and expertise.
Catch swarms. Swarms rarely sting and always draw an audience. It builds your confidence to retrieve a swarm and place it into your bee yard. Once people hear that you keep bees, they will be calling you asking you to remove a swarm. Every beekeeper should have an extra empty hive to capture swarms. You can catch them and keep them as a new hive. Also, you’ll have extra equipment should you want to raise an extra queen, keep a smaller hive going, or support an observation hive. Besides saving money, a swarm consists of local bees that have their own queen and are healthy enough to have already multiplied.
Have the right equipment. It will build your confidence if you gather essential equipment. Basic beginning bee supplies, including safety gear, start at about $160. A honey extractor costs around $300, but can be shared or rented.
A package of bees with a queen bee costs about $80. I suggest buying new equipment and asking another beekeeper to help find a swarm. If you are just starting out, you’ll want to calculate just how many hives you will need.
Finally, find community. Going it alone can be intimidating. Beekeeping is gaining immense popularity, so it’s likely a fellow beekeeper lives near you. There is strength in numbers, and your confidence will surge once you are receiving tips from and swapping stories with enthusiasts and seasoned beekeepers. Join a local bee class in your area or attend beekeeping conventions and meetings.
By doing your homework, having fun with swarms, buying the right equipment, and connecting with like-minded friends, you will quickly gain the confidence (and continued inspiration) to transition from being a bee-haver to a beekeeper. And now, due to bees vanishing from colony collapse disorder, it could be said the bees need you to ramp up your skills more than ever. With a buzz in your heart and honey on your mind, go boldly into your backyard – you are a fearless beekeeper.
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