Tom Seeley at the National Honey Show

UPDATE: Those those tuning in for Tom Seeley, after you’ve registered (for free), you can view his conversation here:

The vast majority of the people who read this blog or watch my beekeeping videos are overseas, but I nevertheless always recommend for new beekeepers in Newfoundland to get on the old Twitter box once in a while and type #beekeeping in the search field to find out what’s going on in the world of beekeeping today. You never know what you’ll find.

Today, for instance, I learned that Tom Seeley is giving a presentation at the National Honey Show in a few days.

If you don’t know about the National Honey Show, you should. Some of the biggest heavy hitters in the beekeeping world give presentations at the National Honey Show, all of it backed up by years of experience or solid science or both. I’ve devoured these presentations since I found them about 5 years ago. I particularly like Clarence Collison’s presentations, but they have presentations by Mike Palmer, if you can stand his grumpy attitude, Tom Seeley, James Ellis, Heather Mattila, Shona Blair — people who know their stuff.

This year, most of the presentations, it seems, can be attended online FOR FREE. It’s worth checking it out and registering if you can:

This kind of thing may be for people more willing to take a deep dive into beekeeping science, not necessarily the casual beekeeper, and those of us with day jobs might have trouble attending, but I think all the presentations will eventually show up on the NHS’s YouTube channel. So bookmark it and come back to it if you can (I’m always checking the channel for new videos). Like I’ve said many times, the best beekeeping info shouldn’t cost you a thing if you know how to use the Internet. It’s easy.

Alternatives to Joining the NL Beekeeping Association

There is a public assumption that joining the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association (the NLBKA) is the best way to begin one’s beekeeping journey in Newfoundland. But that has not been the case for everyone. The NLBKA is largely a commercially-oriented organisation these days, one that I believe does not represent the interests of backyard beekeepers well. For people in Newfoundland who want to learn how to keep bees but don’t want to join the NLBKA, particularly people not able to spend a great deal of money on their beekeeping, there are many excellent resources available that I would recommend over the NLBKA.

Any of the websites maintained by Rusty Burlew, David Burns, Randy OliverMichael Bush or Ron Miksha should provide more than enough practical information on honey bees and beekeeping to help anyone in Newfoundland get started.

There’s a ton of reading material out there, both online and in print, but The Beekeeper’s Handbook may be the most comprehensive and affordable single-volume guide to beekeeping I’ve ever read, so that might be something worth reading, just to get the ball rolling.

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Beekeeping Myth #1: It Doesn’t Take Much Time

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, maybe you should just walk away right now and save yourself the sinking feeling of realising that beekeeping isn’t the wonderful world of golden flowing honey that simply falls from a tap on the side of your beehive while bees gently hover around you in a state of joy and bliss. That may be the idealistic vision of beekeeping that draws most people in, and at the very beginning if absolutely nothing goes wrong, that dream may at times seem like a reality, an experience so wonderful that you barely believe you’re living it. But those are fleeting moments. They don’t tell the whole story. There’s more to having chickens than collecting the eggs. There’s more to owning a dog than playing fetch. Sometimes it gets kind of dirty. Often it gets kind of dirty. And if you think you can care for a dog and raise chickens in your spare time, I’d like to know what world you’re living in. Because beekeeping isn’t that much different.

A swarm of bees hanging off a tree branch. (June 17, 2012.)

A swarm of bees hanging off a tree branch. (June 17, 2012.)

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Beekeeping Books for Beginners

April 2019 Introduction: I’ve rewritten and updated this post since it was originally written in 2013. You can read it or just skip the whole thing and browse through Rusty Burlew’s bookshelf instead.

I was asked by someone in Newfoundland about what books they could read before they get into beekeeping as a hobby. I don’t think you need to read any books. Seriously. If you know how use the internet, you don’t need to buy any of the standard overpriced beekeeping books that are popular these days. Save yourself some money and turn on your computer instead.

There’s a boatload of beekeeping videos on YouTube. Videos posted by the National Honey Show are world class beekeeping presentations from some of the biggest heavy hitters in the beekeeping world.  They probably go a bit too deep for absolute beginners, but it probably doesn’t hurt to have them on the radar. The University of Guelph produces more beginner-friendly videos from its beeyards that are also well worth checking out. Ian Steppler’s beekeeping videos out of Manitoba are exactly the kind of videos I would post if I was a commercial beekeeper. I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the resources to keep bees on that level, but if I ever thought about hitting the big time, I’d be all over his videos. Even as a backyard beekeeper, I’ve learned quite a lot from him. A simple search on Twitter (and other social media apps) for beekeeping also reveals all kinds of fascinating information about beekeeping.

The internet is an invaluable tool for new beekeepers, especially in a place like Newfoundland where there aren’t many beekeepers and where it’s not easy to meet up with other beekeepers. All of my beekeeping mentors are beekeepers I’ve gotten to know online (none from Newfoundland, sorry to say). Most of what I’ve learned about beekeeping, outside of my direct experience with the bees, I’ve learned online. Beekeeping associations, beekeeping workshops, beekeeping books — none of them are necessary for anyone with a connection to the internet who pays attention to their bees. But let’s get back to the question: What books are useful for new beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland (or for people keeping bees in a similar cold climate)?
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