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 most backyard beekeepers well.

For people in Newfoundland who want to learn how to keep bees but can’t join the NLBKA due to monetary or time restraints — or maybe you just don’t like crowds — 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.

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, the Bee-L Listserv 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 (and without having to pay a membership fee). An intuitive intelligence for beekeeping can come to light through experiential teaching and learning — by sharing our experiences with each other. 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 the NLBKA 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. Those who take the time to look over these resources might notice that most of the information about beekeeping practices provided by the NLBKA, including their instructions on how to detect, treat, and prevent the spread of Varroa, have been available online from reputable sources for years — freely available to anyone who knows how to use Google.

I first got into beekeeping in 2010, long before there was a provincial beekeeping association, and I did fine without it. I know a good number of talented beekeepers on the island who have done exceptionally well for themselves without any help from the NLBKA. So can you — if you want to.

That being said, I understand the desire to be a part of a beekeeping association and I don’t fault anyone for joining the NLBKA. It’s not what I’m looking for in a beekeeping association because, while I appreciate its underlying objective, it does seem to suffer from an officious policing element that has alienated some of the best beekeepers on the island and spoiled the beekeeping experience for more than a few new beekeepers. Non-commercial beekeepers in Newfoundland may be better off without the NLBKA. New or prospective beekeepers certainly shouldn’t feel pressured to join. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t. 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.

A list of all the resources mentioned above:

Honey Bee Suite
Beekeeping lessons by David Burns
Scientific Beekeeping
Michael Bush’s Beekeeping
Bad Beekeeping Blog
Some beekeeping books
The Beekeeper’s Handbook
National Honey Show videos
The University of Guelph beekeeping lessons
Ian Steppler’s Canadian beekeeper videos
Backyard Farming & Homesteading NL (on Facebook)
BeeSource forum
The Bee-L Listserv
Worldwide Beekeeping forum
Mud Songs beekeeping videos
My Guide to Beekeeping in Newfoundland

This page was last updated October 2020.

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