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Friday, May 9, 2008

Three Weeks of Beekeeping

After three weeks of beekeeping I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Not that there’s a lot to do, it’s just knowing what to do and when to do it that seems to be the biggest issue for a beginner.

For example, in the first three week period I’ve had to ‘redo’ two things on my hives. The first was reconfiguring the entrance reducer to its proper setting for a new colony. The second was remove the nine frame spacers and change from a nine frame brood chamber to the standard ten frame. The entrance reducer was an easy fix and simple to fix. I don’t think that there were any ill effects from this simple mistake. The second, confusing a nine frame brood box with a nine frame super was the result of me confusing a statement made at the recent beekeeping school I attended. Right off the bat, I noticed that this hive had a lot of burr comb, was more aggressive, and its population seemed to be lower than the ten frame hive. It too was an easy fix, but I think it may have been a little more traumatic to the bees. I had to remove the frames, remove the spacer, and then add back the frames. All the while, bees were flying everywhere, and hopefully, I didn’t smash the queen in the process. I did add the tenth frame and quickly shut up the hive. I believe all will be well.

Another important lesson I’m learning is just how many opinions (as there are in most things) about the ‘right’ way to do things. There are lots of opinions about this and that, but I’ve found that sticking to the mainstream methods for the first year is probably best. Again, the nine vs. ten frame issue comes to mind. Having a plan, before going out to the hives, preparing for what I may find, preparing equipment, and taking care of issues when they arise seems to be the best method.

I’ve also found that having a few other beekeepers as resources is a good idea. I am planning on meeting up with the members of the local beekeeping club in the next few weeks. I talked with the head of the club and her few probing questions made me realize what a valuable resource she will be in the future when I do have questions or problems. I’ve also made it a point to follow a few beekeeping bloggers on the internet. Again, more opinions, but I’m also not limiting myself to the ‘local’ knowledge base either.

In summary, I’m finding out that patience and knowledge go hand-in-hand and when caring for bees and that decisive action, attention to details, and simple observation are key to ‘managing’ hives. It’s a lot easier that I thought and I’m a lot more confident in my abilities to read the signs. I’d recommend that a new beekeeper become familiar with some of the basic techniques of doing this, either by learning from others, or by reading, all the while keeping in mind that there are as many opinions out there are there are beekeepers.

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