I’m a rookie at keeping bees (actually I don’t “keep” them at all). When I was 10, I asked to go to a class at the Essex County Beekeeping School for my 11th birthday. So, every Thursday for several months my mom and I would go to a class called “Practical Beekeeping.” We learned everything about bee biology, setting up hives, installing bees, managing them in each season, and harvesting. Most importantly, we met a bunch of beekeepers that were willing to be our mentors.
It’s tricky business finding the right mentor. Needless to say every keeper has a different way of doing things. It is all very unique, personal and a little particular. The best mentors offer up thoughts and suggestions, but not answers. The great thing about being a beginner with the right mentor is that you get into an awesome habit of saying to each other, “Let’s try it.” My mom and I were both beginners each day with each hive.
Being a beginner has advantages. Think about it, you can try tons of things and see what works for you, when you fail you aren’t embarrassed, everything is new and awesome. Also, and maybe most importantly, when you are a beginner you don’t have any preconceptions about how things are “supposed” to go. That is why the right mentor is important, they can guide.
I have four hives at home and they are 30 feet from one another. They were all built exactly the same way, the workers and queen all came from the same source… and they all behave differently. One hive is a bunch of Mavericks. I need to be super aware around them, they keep me on my toes. Often with the Mavericks I just put my ear to the hive, listen to what they are talking about and then decide whether of not to open up the hive. Sometimes they are just plain old pissed off and don’t want me anywhere near them. The other hives are also unique. One hive is a bunch of Slackers. They are mellow, curious and terrible at putting up honey. They are friendly, but not very productive. The Mavericks are crazy hard workers, the Slackers, not so much. The great thing about the Slackers, however, is I can open their hive any day of the week and really look at each frame. I learn a ton from the Slackers.
Even if I were an “expert” beekeeper, each hive has its own thing going so I will always be a beginner as I approach a specific hive. Thanks to my mentors I have learned not to aspire to be an expert, but instead to realize that being a rookie is the best place to be.
Photo Credit: Orren Fox
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