I’d like to dispel the myth that beekeeping doesn’t take much time. Wrong. It takes a lot of time. For the first two years of my beekeeping, for every hour I spent working with my bees, I spent at least five hours reading and taking notes or watching instructional videos of some kind. And I was glad to do it.
This is my cautionary tale for people who probably shouldn’t bother with beekeeping. If It doesn’t take much time is the final selling point for you, do yourself a favour and walk away right now.For anyone who doesn’t want to read up on everything they can about honey bees and beekeeping, and for anyone who isn’t glad to spend as much time as possible with their bees, I say don’t waste your time with it, because you probably won’t enjoy it. And your bees are likely to be dead after a few years from negligence anyway.
Forgive me if I sound like a jerk for saying that, but I’m feeling a little annoyed at the moment.
Someone recently asked me for some information on how to start beekeeping in Newfoundland. Among another things, I sent them a link to my How-To page, essentially my personal guide to beekeeping in Newfoundland, and they said, “I don’t have time to read all that.” To which I responded: “Then you probably don’t have time for beekeeping.”
I’m not kidding. The information, the videos, the photos, everything on my How-To page is just the beginning of a beekeeping journey. For me, I felt such an immediate connection to beekeeping when I started in 2010 that I regretted all the years of my life that I’d never kept bees. I don’t think it’s necessary to have that kind of reaction to beekeeping to be a good beekeeper, but come on, really? No time to read my little How-To page? Seriously?
I’ve met too many new beekeepers or wannabe beekeepers in the past few years who don’t seem to get this. Beekeeping takes time. Good beekeeping takes even more time.
It may not take up as much time for beekeepers who know what they’re doing, but my guess is it takes about three years before anyone even begins to know what they’re doing, especially in a place like Newfoundland where most beekeepers will have to go it alone most the time. By the end of my second year, I felt like I knew everything about beekeeping. But by the end of my third year, I realized I didn’t know squat. After my third year of beekeeping — after dealing with a colony of mean bees (which instantly takes the shine off beekeeping); after catching two swarms; after losing a colony to starvation; after getting stung in the face more than once; after dealing with mice inside a hive; after manipulating my colonies to prevent swarming — that’s when I began to learn about beekeeping. Everything up to that point was like kindergarten.
When I first got into beekeeping, I was just some guy who happened to buy some bees and put them in his backyard. Having the money and the resources to have a bunch of bees, whether four hives or forty, wouldn’t have made me a beekeeper. But after two years of dedicating all of my spare time to learning about honey bees and beekeeping, and then surviving my third year of hell, I began to feel like, yeah, okay, maybe I can do this. Maybe I am a beekeeper. Not by any means the wise and wizened beekeeper that everybody idealizes like Santa Claus, but I’m in the club.
When I look back on that experience and how much time I put in to getting to where I got, and then I see people who think they can just check on their bees whenever they feel like it, who are attracted to beekeeping because they think it doesn’t take much time — good luck to them. Because without all the luck in the world, they haven’t got a chance.
Again, I apologize if I’ve come off like a know-it-all jerk. I don’t know it all and I know I’m a middle-of-the-road beekeeper at best. But I know enough to realize that beekeeping takes time, more time than most people think.