February 2019 Introduction: I’ve deleted the original post that used to be here. In that post from 2011, I spoke about how I wished there was a beekeeping association in Newfoundland. I just wanted to get together with other beekeepers so we could share our experiences and learn from each other, which I think should be the primary focus and foundation of any beekeeping group. But that’s not exactly what I found in the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association, at least during the year I was a member in 2016. It wasn’t a good fit for me. While I acknowledge that some good work can happen through the association, I just can’t bring myself to be a part of it at this time. It’s better for me to stay focused on what I do well, which is to share my experience of beekeeping in a casual manner so that others might learn from all the mistakes I make. My life is much simpler that way.
Whenever new or prospective beekeepers ask me if they should join the Newfoundland & Labrador Beekeeping Association (the NLBKA), I don’t usually give a strong opinion one way or another because I got into beekeeping in 2010, long before there was a provincial association, and I did fine without it. I eventually joined the association for a year but didn’t really get much from it, so I moved on.
I know some beekeepers in the NLBKA who do excellent work within the association and have done much to bring people into the fold of beekeeping in a manner that is friendly and informative. So that’s good. But there’s another side to that coin, and I can easily understand why the NLBKA is not for everyone.
Fortunately, hobbyists or backyard beekeepers who just want to become good beekeepers but don’t want to join the NLBKA have plenty of alternatives available to them:
Any of the websites maintained by Rusty Burlew, David Burns, Randy Oliver, Michael Bush or Ron Miksha should provide more than enough practical information on honey bees and beekeeping to help anyone get started.
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.
The 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 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.
It’s difficult for prospective beekeepers in Newfoundland to find even the most basic beekeeping workshop, but talking with at least one beekeeper and seeing some bees up close and personal might be the best first step. Locally, the Backyard Farming & Homesteading NL Facebook page is a friendly place to ask people about their beekeeping experiences (and to meet up with other beekeepers). So is the BeeSource forum and the Worldwide Beekeeping forum (where many beekeepers from Atlantic Canada regularly contribute).
And finally, for the truly desperate, we have my beekeeping videos which, as far as I know, are the only ones on planet earth that thoroughly document what it’s like to get into beekeeping as a backyard beekeeper in Newfoundland.
My lofty goal for the videos and everything I post on this mighty blog is to be honest about my mistakes while documenting what actually seems to work so that others might learn from me without being told what to do. An intuitive intelligence for beekeeping can come to light through experiential teaching and learning. My intention is to provide space for people to ‘get it.’ I hope that’s what I do.
I’m not interested in joining the NLBKA, but that doesn’t mean I’m completely against it. There are some important beekeeping initiatives being brought forward by the association. I just don’t think new or prospective beekeepers should feel pressured to join the NLBKA. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t join. Many people in Newfoundland become good beekeepers without joining the NLBKA. And that’s okay.