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Is beekeeping really for you?

The Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association exists to support beekeeping and beekeepers in our province. We don’t like to discourage people with great interest and passion for the craft, but it is important that you know that beekeeping is much more complex than many people realize.  You are not doing honey bees a favour by jumping into the craft without a proper understanding of its complexities, time commitments, and financial requirements.

So, before you order a nucleus colony (a “nuc”), PLEASE think long and hard about what’s involved in the beekeeping craft and the commitment you are about to make!!! Do tons of reading, talk with established beekeepers, and hang out with them if you can.  Membership in the NLBKA can give you access to other beekeepers, beekeeping resources, and benefit you in other ways (as well as other beekeepers), so please consider joining the association.

Here’s some cautionary notes about what it means to get into beekeeping.

“One major concern with these beginning beekeepers is that less than one in four of those who started out with bees have continued with beekeeping after one or two years” ― Lance Cuthill, East Kootenays representative, B.C. Honey Producers’ Association,  Beescene, 2017, 33(1):54.

 “In my opinion, lack of appropriate knowledge of bees and beekeeping poses a significant threat to colony health. This, certainly, is not intended to be condescending in any way. However, I believe it is important for all beekeepers and would-be beekeepers to know that beekeeping can be a complicated endeavour.  In fact, there are many moving parts to managing colonies; there is a lot to know.  Thus, it is important that beekeepers take the necessary steps to read books/periodicals, be trained by a mentor, join local bee clubs, etc. in an attempt to know how to keep bees properly.  It is equally important that beekeepers (and bee researchers for that matter) continue to receive training…throughout their beekeeping careers.  One of the best ways to combat colony stressors is to know how to combat colony stressors” ― Jamie Ellis, 2016, “Other Stressors of Honey Bee Colonies,” American Bee Journal, 156(8): 893.  

“Too many novice beekeepers do not recognize the level of commitment they must have to successfully manage honey bees. For every beekeeper who succeeds, there are probably two or three who do not.  You may have been in a classroom or training program where the instructor begins by saying, ‘Look at the person on your right; now look at the person on your left. One of you won’t be here next year or next week or next month’.  Beekeeping is like that. Not all beekeepers are truly bee-keepers. Some are bee-havers. The latter develop an initial enthusiasm, acquire some bees, and work with them for a while, eventually losing interest.  They never develop any real knowledge or skill.  In the end, they have bees, perhaps a colony in the backyard, but are not really keeping bees. Present-day beekeeping challenges continue to winnow out many of these less-than-committed beekeepers. This actually strengthens the beekeeping community in the long run because the members who remain are well informed and truly passionate. A successful beekeeper learns about honey bees, comes to understand them, and works them on a regular basis, enjoying the process.  In the final analysis, the best beekeeper is able to ‘think like a honey bee’. Managing honey bees, therefore, is as much ‘art’ as it is science” ― Malcolm T. Sanford and Richard E. Bonney, 2010, Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees, North Adams, Mass.: Story Publishing, pp.5-6.

“There are many reasons why beekeepers depart beekeeping after one or two years of hive management….Beekeepers get frustrated when their bees die.  This is the main reason why I recommend beekeepers start with two or more hives, and learn to establish nuclei during their first year of beekeeping….Beekeepers are often surprised how much time and money bees require.  A good mentoring should give them some indication of the work required to keep bees, and my recommendation of two and half hives should seriously challenge the drive-by beekeeper looking at a starter kit at the farm store.  Mentors need to tell new students that their first year of beekeeping is the season that they put away their golf clubs, cancel the month at the lake, and forget about putting the pleasure craft into the water.  They will not have as much free time when they keep bees” ― Lawrence John Connor, 2016, “Using Mentoring to Reduce Losses of New Beekeepers,” American Bee Journal, 156(2): 209-210.