Alternatives to Joining a Beekeeping Association

Updated and completely rewritten in 2019.

There is a public assumption that joining the Newfoundland & Labrador Beekeeping Association (the NLBKA) is the best way to begin one’s beekeeping journey in Newfoundland. But that’s not always the case. For people in Newfoundland who want to learn how to keep bees but don’t want to join the NLBKA or can’t afford it, there are plenty of alternatives available to them.

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 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.

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 may 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 also might be 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’ll likely never have the money or the land to keep bees on a commercial 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.

Due to the province’s sparse population and inconvenient geographical expanse, 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).

The Isle of Newfoundland (108,860 km² / 67,642 mi²) compared to the UK and Europe. (Click the map to zoom out.)

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 online 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 in my own little way. Maybe. Who knows?

Most of the above alternatives to joining a beekeeping association are available for free to everyone, which can be a welcomed break for people who can’t afford the NLBKA’s $100+ AGMs and annual membership fee on top of their already hefty beekeeping expenses.

I first got into beekeeping in 2010, long before there was a provincial beekeeping association, and I did fine without it. So can you — if you want to. That being said, I understand the desire to be a part of a beekeeping association and I won’t fault anyone for joining the NLBKA. It’s not what I’m looking for in a beekeeping association, but hey, I get it. My point is that new or prospective beekeepers shouldn’t feel pressured to join the NLBKA. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t join. Many people in Newfoundland continue to become excellent, well-informed beekeepers without having anything to do with the provincial beekeeping association. And that’s okay.

My small backyard near downtown St. John’s where I first kept bees.

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