Beekeeping is immensely rewarding. At times, considerably frustrating. But in the end it is an amazing learning experience.
Some people make the decision to become beekeepers for their life’s work, but even those people started with a few hives and a lot of questions. As part of the WHPA we think it is important to provide you with some of those answers, point you in directions to find others and become as successful at beekeeping as you want to.
The internet is an amazing research tool. Looking at videos you can see great examples of people hiving bees. Videos of people examining frames, or finding the queen. They are all available with just a few clicks. Some of the things you can learn by watching these videos and seeing this first hand video experience, will be invaluable to you as a beekeeper.
But, there is one thing you need to be very aware of. If your questions involve answers that could be regionally effected, you have to find an answer from your same region. Installing a three pound package of bees works pretty much the same in Georgia as it does here in Wisconsin. But if on the other hand you want to know about how much stores the bees need left in the hive to survive the winter; Or, maybe when to put on honey supers, or any number of the other questions you are going to have, you need an answer that is closer to home.
That is where your local bee club comes in. Here on this web site, we have a list of where all the local bee club chapters are. Find their meetings and attend. At these meetings you will find out the techniques you need to ensure success. You will meet people who no matter what problems you are having, no matter how bad you think it looks, they already lived through it.
There is this thing about beekeepers. They say that if you put ten of them in a room and ask them a question, you will walk away with eleven answers. This is what bee club is all about – people share the stories of their success. They provide answers and as time goes on, you listen to all those answers. Combine it all together in what seems like a good idea to you for your own hives.
Even more important than hearing about what worked, you will hear about what didn’t. That is what makes local bee clubs better than the internet. Its an amazing phenomena that on the net, people are very willing to crow about their new great technique. They are a little less likely to take the time to type out the stories of their failures. At bee clubs it seems like those barriers are down and people are willing to share the stories of what not to do. To share chuckles over the total disasters, the time you accidentally dumped a pound of bees down the sleeve of your glove. It is those times that let you know what you are in for and there is a way through.
Visiting a local bee club builds a camaraderie you can call on. Most clubs will have a few member phone numbers listed as emergency help. They welcome the chance help someone. There will be times when you realize you are looking at a problem that won’t wait until the next bee club meeting. Being part of a bee club brings experts to your access at the touch of a finger.
Finally, if you are serious about beekeeping, or serious doing what you can to help the bees, consider attending one of the WHPA annual conventions. There are technical sessions taught by experts in the beekeeping field from all around the country. These breakout sessions can cover a topic at great depth. There is plenty of time over the weekend event to meet more with regional beekeepers and compare your experiences with theirs. If you want to take beekeeping beyond a hobby into a career, you will meet a network of the people who you will need to know to help you on this path.
When you think about starting out, you might think you will start with one hive and grow from there. And, you can.
Check online for beekeeping supply companies and request their catalogs. You can learn a lot about what fits together and what things are called by pouring over those catalogs. If you can find someone who sells locally you will save a lot of money. Time too, because if you order in the early spring it can take up to a month to get the equipment even shipped to you.
There are lots of ways to get bees. You can even mail order them. But I would suggest the best place to buy them can be discovered by attending a bee club meeting. Sometimes the clubs go all together and buy them as a club in bulk. Beyond this the clubs will post local price comparisons from bee suppliers.
Beyond all this information there is a ton more. Different types of equipment, different ways to use some of the same equipment. Learning about bees, their social structure and how they work is fascinating. Learning how to provide the best home for them and keep them healthy can be a life long interest. And what they produce…it is an amazing experience to eat the honey produced out of your own beehives. That is a life-long experience as well!
We welcome all beekeepers and people interested in beekeeping to join the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association!