A new beekeeper learns best by clinging to the leg of an experienced beekeeper. That’s how I learned, but I was four years old at the time. For you older folks, you need a mentor, someone who’s actually a better beekeeper than they claim to be, and is familiar with your geography, climate, and flowers. Good mentors are in short supply.
An alternative to a mentor might be a gathering of neo-keepers converging on a friendly, experienced paleo-keeper’s back yard. Hopefully by invitation. Our Calgary bee club offers a Saturday at the Hive event – something your local club might consider. You just need a lovely back yard and a willing host.
Here in Calgary, members of the bee club let an organizer know that they are able and interested in opening up their home, gardens, and bees to beekeeping visitors. The intention is announced and potential visitors – first come, first served – sign up. These Saturday at the Hive bashes fill up quickly. That was the case when my friend Mark hosted such a party in his yard.
Mark invited me to ‘co-host’ but the planning, work, setup, and bees were his. As were the wholesome summertime BBQ and fixin’s. I was mostly furniture, except in the role of talking about bees and answering bee questions. The party also gave me an audience of over 20 people to update about my University of Calgary bee ecology project. One of my undergrad research assistants presented a nice overview of our work. (I’ll have more about that in a future blog post.)
Guests gathered in a big semi-circle around Mark’s neatly arranged apiary of four hives. We worked our way through the colonies, making some timely adjustments. One colony needed a brood boost, another took an extra honey super. As we did this work, the visitors took a few pictures and many took notes. For the newest beekeepers, it can be daunting trying to understand the mechanics of the equipment and the dynamics of the living hive.
It was a great experience, lovely to have so many people gathered around, exhibiting keen interest in flowers, landscapes, and bees. I leave with this very short clip of the visitors to this week’s Saturday at the Hive.