• What I learned in my first year....

    This is a shameless rip off of a similar post on a similar forum but now I'm entering year 2 and hence now know everything there is to know about beekeeping I thought it might be interesting and hopefully useful.

    1) Don't buy anything until you've done a couple of inspections at your local association or with another beekeeper.

    The first time we opened up a hive I will admit, in my best Asterix, to thinking "@*!%%^". I got hot so went away from the hive, took off my suit and promptly got stung twice. I won't say that the stings did it, but that was kind of my badge of honour. I'm not dead, and I'm not put off.

    I think, as a prospective beekeeper, you're allowed to feel a little intimated when confronted with this sort of thing:

    I used to dive a lot and help out my local dive club training new divers and this reminds me a lot of what I saw then. People get really keen, run out and buy loads of really expensive kit and then baulk at the reality of it. In the case of diving, it's taking your mask off in open water. In beekeeping I suspect that it's the first time a beekeeper encounters a hive that is a broiling mass of (possibly angry) bees.

    2) Don't be afraid to have an opinion.
    Especially if you don't think something is right. We shook swarmed my colony last year far too early. I thought so at the time, but I'm the new guy and he knows what he's doing so I'll shut up. If you've done an introductory course you should already be familiar with the equation:

    Opinions = (number of beekeepers present + X)
    Where X is a number between 1 and infinity.

    3) Your bees have read the same books you have.
    They know what you're expecting. They're doing something different to mess with you. Mine swarmed in August, that's not supposed to happen, all the books say get past June/July and swarming season is over. I do at least think I know why it happened but it still brings me to...

    4) You will lose a swarm.
    My aim this year is to try not to. It's my aim for next year too.

    And the year after.

    5) To limit my Inspections.
    The temptation is to go up and open them every couple of hours.
    Remember when you were a kid and your Mum was always going on at you at the state of your room? It's the same thing, except bees don't panic when you start rummaging around under the bed.

    Why are you going to open up the hive? What will it tell you that sitting in your apiary with a flask of coffee or a bottle of pop wont? You can learn huge amounts about what is going on just watching your bees come and go. And it's a lovely way to kill an hour or two on a sunny afternoon without having to fanny around suiting up and lighting smokers and all that jazz.

    6) You can never have too much kit.
    Year 1 sucks. You've bought the bare minimum of gear and the cost of that made you gasp. All your frames are foundation and you could really do with a frame of comb. A spare broodbox yesterday would have made all the difference.

    I keep bees with another guy I met on my beginner's course and it's been a godsend. We've got two colonies, and enough gear between to switch things around when we need to. Having two colonies on the same site has come in especially useful. With one colony your options are limited, with two you can help one out with the other.

    And here also seems a good place to mention the quote "There is little in Beekeeping that cannot be solved by putting something into, or taking something out of, a Nucleus". Expensive I know, but handy.

    7) Find a backup Apiary site.
    This goes double if you're contemplating keeping bees on an allotment. Personally I think you want somewhere where you can put several hives, having to go 20 minutes out to inspect 1 hive quickly becomes a chore.

    I live in a city, I have my bees on an allotment, I know that if for some reason there's a problem I have to sort it now or I'll be told, not asked, to take them away. I now have two alternative sites I can move hives to if I need to. One will hopefully become a second apiary, the other is a stop gap measure I could put a hive on if I have to.

    8) A forum like this can be an incredible resource.
    You can come back and post "I've just seen this..... What does it mean?" and you'll get several answers. They'll probably all tell you different things, but that's part of the fun.

    9) Don't fixate on finding the queen.
    If you don't need to find her then you don't need to find her. Even marked queens can be elusive buggers. Have you got eggs? Have you got eggs standing up on end? If yes, you've almost certainly got a queen. She'll either be on the QX, the sidewall or that frame full of pollen that you're ignoring by the way.

    And the number 10....

    10) It's an incredible hobby.

    I love it, I really do. I'm "that guy who keeps bees". You'll never be short of conversation beekeeping and I learn so much just from questions everyone else asks me because I hate having to say "Honestly, I really don't know." more than once
    This article was originally published in forum thread: What I learned in my first year.... started by Nellie View original post
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Phil McAnespie's Avatar
      Phil McAnespie -
      Hi Nellie,
      Excellent article. I wish more people would learn as much as you have in so short a time.
      Can I just suggest now that you think about sitting the Basic Beekeepers exam and then the modules. I wish I had done it years ago. They will enhance your confidence and skill no end and will make you an even better beekeeper.
      Don't be afraid of the thought of the basic. The examiners are there to help and not criticise. They will not pass you if you are not competent but with your learning so far and reading good books I have no doubts you will do well.
      Well done.
    1. Neils's Avatar
      Neils -

      Thanks for the feedback (only just found this bit, bad Gavin not telling me stuff would end up here too ).

      Ahead of you on that front, already doing my Basic and Module 1 - General husbandry this year and you're absolutely right, it's doing me no harm whatsoever. I hope this isn't unique to me, what I find right now is that I do, for the most part, know the theory of basic beekeeping (OK maybe I need to actually pass the exams first before making that claim), what I lack is the practical experience, but that's half the fun

      But I do read both books and internet resources voraciously, especially over the close season but the best thing I have done over the winter was to volunteer to help out on our Association's Beginner's course. Just putting out tables and whatnot, but doing the basic stuff again with the benefit of a years experience was very useful.
    1. necterboy's Avatar
      necterboy -
      Great read nellie. you pretty much nailed everything. Yikes on the photo as well....
    1. HJBee's Avatar
      HJBee -
      Hi Nellie

      Just starting out and this is a useful post to go back to when I feel overwhelmed. I am also a SSAC Diver & there I thought Gardening was the hobby linked to Beekeeping!:rolleyes
    1. hypostatic's Avatar
      hypostatic -
      Brilliant stuff man, ive just started reading on beekeeping and devoured 4 books in the last week.

      im looking forward to getting some hives next year and your post has made things a bit simpler than reading all the jargon in the books.

      Thanks for the encouragement