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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Recommended Resources for Beginners

I'm often asked how I got into beekeeping.  Most of the time what people mean is 'how' I got into beekeeping and learned what I needed to know.  

As a first-year beekeeper the amount of advise can get overwhelming, but for those of you who are interested, I've made a top ten list of things that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in keeping bees.

1.  Look at the calendar.  The beekeeping season actually starts well before spring.  A first-year beekeeper will have to order/make hives, buy a few simple tools, and secure some bees, either by mail order or from a local source for delivery in March or April.  Either way, the time to start reading, gathering supplies, and preparing for the season is during the winter.

2.  Get to know some local beekeepers.  The best way to do this is to find the local beekeeping club.  If you don't know where to start, contact your local agricultural extension agent, state apiarist, or ask around at the local farmers market.  Find out who the local beekeepers are in your area and ask them about their beekeeping activities.

3.  Buy, borrow, or check out several books on beekeeping.  I highly recommend 'Beekeeping For Dummies' and 'The Beekeeper's Handbook'.  Both are excellent resources.  Other recommended resources can be found on my blog under 'On My Bookshelf'.

4.  Surf the net for topics on beekeeping.  Many beekeepers come at it from different angles.  You may be interested in pollination, producing honey or honey products, or you may be interested in beekeeping as a business.  Whatever your interest, there are literally hundreds of websites that will have information for you.  Be sure and check out blogs, web forums, and chat boards.

5.  Order supplier catalogs and start getting familiar with equipment.  Many suppliers carry slightly different items.

6.  Attend a beekeeping workshop or field day.  Many beekeeping clubs or organizations will host a weekend workshop on beekeeping.  Theses are geared toward the beginner beekeeper and will prove invaluable in building your confidence and knowledge base.  (I attended two of these before I ever had bees.)

7.  Get to know your equipment and how to use it properly.  Practice manipulating the hives, using the tools, lighting the smoker, and manipulating the hive before there are bees in it.  Assemble and have it painted and ready to go by the day that you put bees in your hive. 
8.  Start with two hives.  This was a great piece of advise that I got.  It allows you to compare and contrast the two hives with each other and lookout for disease and pests.  Also, if one fails for any reason, you have not lost all of your beekeeping for the whole season.

9.  Don't be discouraged by what happens.  When I found out I had mites I was devastated.  Then I realized that everyone has them.  Bees are natural creatures in an unnatural environment.  There will be mishaps, missteps, accidents, defeats, and discouragements.  The joy in beekeeping in being successful despite these setbacks.  Beekeeping is a very old and time-honored tradition.  Only a very special few partake in it.  That's what makes it special.

10.  Keep a journal, blog, or some type of record of your beekeeping activities.  I decided early on to photograph and blog about my experience as a record to refer back to, share with friends and family, and encourage others to become beekeepers.

These are just the main points that I wanted to stress to anyone who is looking at becoming a beekeeper.  If you are interested, let me encourage you to e-mail me and tell me about your interest.  I'd love to hear from you.

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