I started beekeeping when I was 13 years old. At age 12 I found a hive of feral bees and unsuccessfully tried to adopt them (they died). My dad, always alert to opportunities to enrich his sons’ lives, signed us up for 4-H beekeeping. The club met regularly, only about a mile from our home It was mentored by an absolutely amazing array of successful beekeepers. Once we got into this group, our progress was steady and pretty smooth. It actually brings tears to my eyes when I recollect the wonderful folk who invested so much into our lives.
Back in the 70’s, if I mentioned at school that I was a beekeeper, I might have elicited a yawn from some of my classmates. Beekeeping was not cool. Sometime in the last 15 or 20 years our society has changed its attitude about beekeeping. Being a beekeeper is about as close to being a “rock star” as I’m ever going to get. One day I woke up and discovered that I was a “bee whisperer,” “in tune with nature,” and that others admired my skills! Well, I know a few things, but let me tell you, out in the field, I sometimes do a jig, when the bees turn aggressive on me (not cool for beekeepers). I can’t help it! I don’t like getting stung!
Sometime in the last 15 to 20 years, beekeeping has become “cool.”
When a aspiring beekeeper approaches me, I usually tell them they need to take a class and they REALLY NEED a MENTOR. A person can learn the basics in 10 hours or less, but to become “fluent” in beekeeping will take a couple years. There are so many interacting details, that it’s impossible to master the global picture of beekeeping in a crash course, let alone via the Internet.
If you want to get into beekeeping, understand that the equipment will likely cost you at least $500, just to get started. You really need to take a real live class. Check around in your area for a regional or local beekeepers association, or speak with a neighbor who is a beekeeper. Then, be prepared to study and learn, ad infinitum. Experienced beekeepers have a saying, “As soon as you think you’ve got the bees figured out, they’ll show you otherwise.”
“As soon as you think you’ve got the bees figured out, they’ll show you otherwise.”
Eventually Homesteading Edu will have a course on beekeeping. We’ve already taken a ton of video footage. But I’ll be the first to say, that no on-line course can take the place of a real live mentor. We’ll do the best we can, but we’ll always be supplemental to a real live mentor.
Finally, it’s important to know that working bees is hard work. I relax when I work bees. But there is a fair amount of lifting involved. One needs to be very much aware of the bees’ behavior and cues given. Many times it is hot work. It takes time, always more than one thinks. I LOVE it! Still, I hate to see people disappointed when they launch out into beekeeping with misconceptions about “easy honey.”