I was about to begin my post by confessing that I am not a professional beekeeper by any means. Just as you are about to do – and I’m so happy for you, and the little busy bees that you are about to bring into the world – I am still learning about the ins and outs and the do’s and don’ts of beekeeping. I am also not an educationalist, so I’m not entirely sure how I could ever begin giving you a written lecture, all neatly typed out, of course, or a quick tutorial on beekeeping. I say that this is all so very fortunate because here there will be no need to rely on long-winded statements and scientific terms that you and I will be spending far too much time trying to comprehend.
The beauty of the internet these days is that you can pretty much find anything on everything that you have in mind to look for. This is very good for when you are in a rush, although it must be said that you should never rush the process of setting up your own apiary. The other thing is that the language that experts use to tell you their story and guide you with their variations of checklists is written in a manner that is not only understandable, but pleasant to read as well.
It is not a case of bother, but the library is a little out of my way at the moment, so I cannot go out and look for something to use to replace the archaic manuals I am busy with at the moment. So, off to the internet we go. More research and hopefully a pleasant, flowing checklist on beekeeping for eager beaver beginning beekeepers out there. It would have to be functional and, like the honey that you and your bees will be making, short and sweet, not too many lines here and there that could easily wear you out while laboring over your intricate and taxing tasks.
Try and make your checklist as original as possible. Let it be a reflection of who you are as a beekeeper. Let it be a reflection of your own garden and the bees that you keep. Would it not be wonderful to be producing honey that tastes original and unlike any other that the connoisseur has tasted before?
• SUMMER – Work during your area’s warmest months. Bees are more productive during spring when flowers are in full bloom.
• ONE HIVE – Start with one hive only. This will allow you to manage your tasks and should also reflect the size of your garden.
• SPRING – The recommendations already given seem obvious. But do prepare your new tools and resources months in advance. I suggested summer initially because during the warmer months, thanks to global warming, bees will be a tad docile and allow you to work on your hive unhindered by their natural inclination to protect their hive.
• READING AND RESEARCH – During the winter, learn all you can about the beekeeping and honey making processes. Don’t rely entirely on the net. Be prepared to spend time at your library checking resources on hive design and the tools needed to prepare a hive.
• CLUBS – Join beekeeping clubs. There will be volumes of reading material for you to peruse. You will be rewarding your bee colony with expert knowledge and experience from fellow members and will be inundated with their own passions for beekeeping. There is a willingness to help new beginners.
• GARDENING – Other advice given is to order your bees. Here, you will be ordering nucs. My argument is that bees still need a garden. Long before the idea of keeping bees enters our head, a passion for gardening should be a first love.
• QUALITY – Quality before quantity. If you need to buy bees, make sure that you have checked with your supplier where the bees originate from and if they’ve had a successful pollinating season. I think, at this stage, your garden and equipment is more important. The bees will come to you, as far as I’m concerned, but if it’s necessary to purchase bees, please take one of your mates from your club with to assist you.
• COACHING – Speaking of which, bees can be rather devilish at times. It’s not their fault, as I may have mentioned to you earlier. Handling them on your own could be rather tricky, if not dangerous, at first. Ask one of your experienced club members to act as your mentor and coach and assist you on all the processes from beginning to end. I hope his (or her) enthusiasm for beekeeping is as keen as yours and mine, because I think it will be ideal for him or her to spend an entire season with you.
• RECORDS – Over and above reading and research, good record keeping is essential. You should be enthusiastic about this to ensure that your methods of checking things such as breeding patterns, eggs, larvae and a capped brood are sound, accurate but not too analytical that it confuses you. There are a number of other intricate details that will require the keeping of records to ensure that your bees are healthy and your honey is top-notch.
• SYRUP – This is to do with the contentious matter of food. It’s been suggested that you feed the young bees with sugar syrup. I’m not entirely at home with that idea. Initially, it may be unavoidable if you have nothing to begin with, but, as I mentioned earlier, it would be a far better idea to have a functioning garden in place before the hive arrives. There will be food aplenty, surely.
• HARVESTING – This is probably going to be the most exciting time for you. It’s when you start to see the first stocks of honey. The bees are production legends, so it’s quite possible that you will see honey after your first season, but a big rule of thumb here is to curb your excitement and let this season pass before gathering honey. Allow the bees to gather their resources and use this honey for the fallow months. This will allow them to come back stronger and more productive than ever before.