I had a great time helping teach Beginning Beekeeping to 40 new beekeepers this weekend. Our local bee club, Calgary and District Beekeepers, organized the 2-day event. I was invited to speak for three hours about Spring and Summer Hive Management, followed with Honey: Harvesting and Fun-with-Honey.
Well, of course, the second lecture wasn’t really called Fun-with-Honey, or anything even remotely similar. But it’s hard to indicate processing, grading, storing, using, and selling in one succinct title. Other teachers covered things like starting with bees, bee biology, diseases and pests, and fall/winter management. I guess I don’t need to say that it was a lot of material to cover in one weekend. I felt sorry for the newbees in the classroom. It was an incredible amount of information, all presented in the wacky vernacular of bee-people-speak. But the end-of- class evaluations given to us by the students were almost all excellent. And in the spring, the participants will be taken to an apiary for a refresher and for some hands-on practical experience.
Although I have been messin’ in bees since I was a kid and became enthused in a big way around age 17, I learned a lot from my fellow teachers, Liz, Bert, and Neil. That’s one of the nicest things about beekeeping – you can work with bees for years and years and still learn a lot. My introductory bio told participants that I have been working with bees for over 40 years, raised thousands of queens, and made a lot of honey. I wanted the students to know that I still have a lot to learn, so I used a story I heard once from another beekeeper.
When you first start to keep bees, you think you know everything. You do this, and the bees do that. You do this other thing, and the bees react this other way. After a year or two, you have made a bit of honey and you have grown comfortable in the beeyard. But then the bees surprise you. And as time goes on, you begin to realize that you don’t know everything. “Beekeeping,” said my friend, “is one of those things where you start out knowing everything and as time goes on, you know less and less until finally you realize that you don’t know anything at all.” Well, it’s not quite that bad. But the beekeeper who brags the most and acts the smartest is almost invariably the least experienced amid any party of beekeepers.