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Not every new beekeeper needs a mentor

Not for one minute do I believe that every new beekeeper needs a mentor. Furthermore, some mentors do more harm than good. The thing is, anyone can call themselves a mentor. In beekeeping, no qualifications are required.

Now, I agree that it’s nice to watch someone open a hive if you’ve never done it. It’s helpful to see someone hold a hive tool and manipulate the frames or point out brood and honey and hive beetles. But is it necessary? No.

Mentoring is communicating

Bad mentors are everywhere in this business. I’ve seen three-month beekeepers “mentoring” beginners, teaching them how to overwinter when they’ve never overwintered themselves. Conversely, I’ve known mentors who’ve been keeping bees since the last ice age but have no ability to teach. It doesn’t matter how much you know if you can’t communicate.

Mentoring is much more than a skilled beekeeper teaching an unskilled one. Since it’s a one-on-one relationship, issues of compatibility can enhance or destroy the learning process. Before I began this website, I was more open-minded about mentoring. It was common and accepted, and I thought it was okay. What changed my mind were things people wrote:

“My mentor put my bottom box on the top, but I don’t know why.”

“Why did my mentor shake my bees onto the ground? He said everyone did it.”

“When my bees died my mentor said it was a bad queen. What was wrong with her?”

“My mentor said not to worry about mites the first year. Now they’re dead.”

What I see in these comments is a mentor who didn’t know, didn’t care, or couldn’t teach. We cannot all be mentors. Take me, for example. I’m far too impatient for mentoring. I like to get in, do the job, and get out. “You missed it? How could you miss it?”

Good mentors are rare

Do good mentors exist? Absolutely. But like good teachers, they are scarce. Even now, I can recall every teacher who made a lasting impression on me: my seventh grade science teacher, my ninth grade English teacher, my tenth grade physics teacher. I remember them because they were remarkable. They inspired, motivated, and encouraged. They made me want to learn, a trait that set them apart from the others.

The beekeeping mentor needs to explain the why of everything. Why did you move that frame? How do you know they will swarm? Why do you think the queen is weak? Conversely, the newbee should ask why. Over and over. Don’t let your mentor off the hook for a second. Make him explain.

Don’t do what doesn’t make sense

I firmly believe that when a new beekeeper doesn’t understand an instruction, he shouldn’t follow it. Why would you do something you don’t understand? This applies to advice from mentors, speakers, YouTube, books, magazines, and websites including this one. Keep asking until you understand and pay attention to your misgivings. You have a built-in b.s. meter for a reason. Trust it.

To me, the idea that everyone needs a mentor is just one more in a long string of beekeeping myths and half-truths. If you can find a good mentor, you are lucky indeed. If you can’t find one that suits you, you can succeed just as well.

Common sense and respect for your bees will solve most beekeeping problems. Reading, thinking, and planning will help with the rest. Above all, never doubt that you can do this—with a mentor or without.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Tippy-hives. Not every beekeeper needs a mentor.
Ask your mentor why those hives won’t tip over. Pixabay photo.

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Comments

Phillip
Reply

I’ve been a mentorless beekeeper going on almost 7 years now. It’s not without its problems. Some lessons in beekeeping take me years because I have no one to tell me any different. Today when I see what passes for mentoring, especially from inexperienced beekeepers or from people with romantic ideals about beekeeping, and I see the damage they do, I realize I got lucky not being able to find a mentor when I started beekeeping.

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Phillip. I agree that you’re often better off without.

Walt
Reply

I have a mentor, but not for long. I have been beekeeping for about three years, but not enough experience to know why the beehive will not fall over, other than the weight. Care to explain.

Rusty
Reply

Walt,

I have no idea why anyone would be that sloppy. If that thing goes over, it will damage a whole lot of bees. Just thought it was an interesting photo of bad practice.

Sharon Klemm
Reply

As a person who has spent 3.5 decades in the classroom trenches, my reaction to this post is, no truer words were ever spoken. I have noticed that there is a fairly predictable progression of thought in a person who is attempting to learn something: they move from “the” and “that” to “why” and “how.” And while I agree with you that a person can certainly learn through trial, error and the school of hard knocks, having someone who has been there sure can ease one through some tight spots and in this case, spare a few stings. Great post, but I disagree with you on one point. You said you would be a lousy mentor bc you are too impatient. From my vantage point, every time you write and answer questions on this blog you are mentoring. I have learned a lot of stuff about beekeeping that could only come from someone who has acquired insight, wisdom and experience; I am grateful for this. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Now, to that photo. Why won’t it tip over? Beats me. That looks like a hot mess to me, IMO it should tip over.

Rusty
Reply

Sharon,

Thank you for that.

As for the hive, I think it’s going over too. It makes me squirm to look at it. Talk about stings.

IslandLife
Reply

Hear, hear!

You’re a wonderful mentor. Maybe not in person, but definitely “on paper.” 🙂

Edward
Reply

Thanks for that, It needed to be said. I like to find things out by watching and learning, There are very few beekeepers who I would trust to ask their opinion.

Jeff
Reply

As a carpentry foreman for over 20 years, I taught the trade to a fair few apprentices. A much easier task than teaching an entire classroom, but each individual had to be assessed as to how he learned best. Some had to shown a task but once, others several times, others still learned faster from reading theoretical notes and references. No matter which way they learned, I learned that as the teacher (mentor) it was my responsibility to ask if the instruction was understood by the student.

Many a time, in all walks of life a person of knowledge and authority will pass instruction to a less learned colleague, work place junior, or student, knowing exactly what and in which order he/she wants the task to be completed in. Often, the one receiving the instruction has a vague idea of what is needed, but does not fully understand and is too afraid to ask for further clarification. Thus, the task is done correctly in the way the receiver understood, but can end up being a complete mistake to what the instructor asked for!

For myself, as an instructor/mentor, it is very important to make absolutely sure the student fully understands the task, before I walk away.

Personally I feel, if a newcomer to bees is going to jump in at the deep end by deciding one day to be a beekeeper and the next day purchases some bees, then I feel a mentor is a very important friend to have.

Finding the right mentor, well that is a whole lot more difficult!

Rusty
Reply

Well said, Jeff. But as you yourself say, everyone learns differently. For example, the first comment on this post came from Phillip, who I know to be an extremely competent, creative, and caring beekeeper who jumped in “at the deep end” without a mentor. I never had a mentor either, although I was exposed to beekeeping when I was very young.

One point where I totally agree, though, is the mentor should make sure the student understands before walking away. Having them repeat it back in their own words is a good way to do that.

I think most people know how they learn best, so if they want a mentor, they should seek one. If they are more comfortable reading a dozen books, that’s what they should do.

Anyway, good points. Good discussion. Thanks.

Carol
Reply

This is such a good perspective. I have had bees for less than a year. I was inspired to take it up by a friend and neighbor who was a new beekeeper and who had a mentor. I think I got the confidence to take the plunge because my friend said I could also get help and advice from his mentor. Well that never panned out, but meanwhile I have constantly kept reading (your blog is invaluable), watched videos, bounced ideas off my neighbor beekeeper (who sometimes goes into my hives with me) and pondered things every step of the way. An idea from an expert led me to consider keeping bees in my loft, but I did a ton of research before I was confident enough to give it a try. Knowing that the buck stops with me has kept me more on my toes, I think.

James
Reply

Rusty
Another great post. I couldn’t agree with you more.

Beekeeping is soo different from just about anything I can think of, I personally feel it would be really hard to find a good mentor.

That does not mean you can’t good advice from from a lot of different people.

James

Patty
Reply

It’s a relief to hear this, really. I do not have a mentor and don’t really want one. I’m reading, watching, and belong to a club. That’s it. Being very rural, it’s not convenient to ask someone to come over and visit my hive and teach me. Thanks for this.

Christopher Godden
Reply

I certainly agree with these thoughts. I got my start from my Grandmother but as she lives 3 hours away it’s never been more than asking a question on the phone. I spent 2-3 months reading all I could on bee biology and beekeeping before getting my first bees and continue to gain as much knowledge as I can. Without an onsite mentor I have been able to expand from one hive to 4, performing a number of different splits, manipulations, equipment options and selling 3 nucleus colonies in my first year.

Most importantly researching the international resources e.g. America/UK (I’m Australian) has exposed me to different techniques and philosophies not common in Australia and kept me open to different styles of beekeeping and hives etc that if i’d only joined a club and got a traditional mentor would likely be pushed back against.

Terry
Reply

Christopher, don’t be so wary of clubs. We didn’t have one in our local area so started one! We welcome all forms of beekeeping from the hobbyist to the commercial so many styles are discussed. Generally our speakers are club members or local people involved in beekeeping at various levels. For example, tonight we have one member, who has turned his hobby into a business will talk about splitting while another member who runs TBHs will talk about diseases (after recently completing a TAFE course in the subject).

I also attend another group in Melbourne which is focussed on natural beekeeping and I have learnt a tremendous amount from them too.

I think that there is a lot of “speed dating” of mentors in these kind of situations but it also comes down to the learner being open to looking at different ideas. If they have become frozen on one type of beekeeping at an early stage then they are not going to progress as learners.

Heather Boerema
Reply

Rusty,
I love your comment, “Don’t let your mentor off the hook for a second.” When I first started, my mentor would move very quickly, moving this frame here and there, shaking bees off frames at this hive and that hive, shake his head at a frame. One day I finally said, “I need you to think out loud here for me, I NEED to understand what you are doing!” That was a turning point in my learning and our relationship. I would still have to remind him now and then or ask, “What ya thinking?”, but for the most part he began regularly explaining the rationale behind what we were doing. If he couldn’t explain right then at that moment, we would discuss it later. I would then do my part and follow up with reading and research.

Rusty
Reply

Good for you, Heather. It sounds like he forgot that he was there to teach, until you reminded him. I’m so glad it worked out.

Helen Kirkwood
Reply

No, we don’t have an on-site mentor, but we have relied on your website to lead the way. We look at other sources but always come back to learn what you would do. Your information just seems to make sense. Thank you.

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Helen. It’s good to hear.

Karen
Reply

Rusty,
I do not have a mentor except my online mentors. I am on year 4 beekeeping could not have made it this far without you , Mike Bush and Betterbee. Thank you for all you share. Everytime I do something stupid I get a feeling and start researching and yes I did something stupid. You have helped me correct alot of them. For example I have lost only 5 hives so far this year about 25% by listening to your over wintering advice. Last year 80 PERCENT. A Tip on requeening to new beekeepers don’t try to do 20 at a time during a heat wave and nectar derth. I finally got them all in it took me 2 weeks and possible heat stroke. Your bee quilts and winter feeders work perfect here in the northeast. My bees we acting weird today I went to get my truck unstuck, don’t ask, and they were flying everywhere. It was sunny but only about 40 degrees. Every hive was crazy busy. Thanks for everything.

Rusty
Reply

Karen,

You are so welcome, but about that truck…

Richard Morrison
Reply

Now that’s sloppy beekeeping.

Kris Krems
Reply

One Solid Mentor is good.
Two Solid Mentors is bad.

Colin Lyne
Reply

Hi all. After reading these comments, and am just about to be pointed toward a mentor in my local society, how should I approach this, considering that, at this time, I do not know who that mentor is, or his/ her capabilities? Should I decline the offer of a mentor and learn by my mistakes?. I have all my equipment, and am now awaiting my nucleus in May ( exciting!). I have read, and Youtubed, but find certain “bits” a bit uneasiness. What would you advise please? What happens on that first day, and ensuing month? Thanks in advance.

Rusty
Reply

Colin,

I think you should try the mentor and see how it works. You will probably know very shortly if he or she is the right person for you. If you are uncomfortable, then you can strike out on your own. You will learn as you go with or without the mentor. Every time I try something new, even now, I go through that bit of uneasiness and self doubt. It’s okay. It just shows you are thinking.

frances I Moore
Reply

Wonderful, I agree with u 100%. I do not have one and I am not a member of a bee club either. I read stuff by u and I have several folks I watch. I watch videos. Steward from the Norfolk honey co in the uk does wonderful videos, UoG’s Honey bee research center has wonderful videos on beekeeping and Tim on Walls Bee Man. You can find all of these wonderful folks on youtube. You watch these folks and it is like being in bee school. It is wonderful. You do a great job here on honey bee suite. I have read every thing u have wrote u are great thanks.

Rusty
Reply

Frances,

Thank you. I will try some of your YouTube sources.

Larry
Reply

I’ve actually had bees now for about 1 full year, but this is my 3rd year belonging to our local bee club. I got interested in bees too late that first year to buy bees, so that year was spent gathering as much information about beekeeping, equipment, etc., as I possibly could. I volunteered to help any and all club members with what ever needed done with their bees, as well as volunteering to help the club at the various venues where they set up a booth and/or lectured elementary students about bees and beekeeping. Through my year or “apprenticeship”, the most important lesson I learned was to trust my gut feelings. If it didn’t make sense to me, or if it just didn’t feel right, I started asking questions, lots of questions, and not from just one source. I must say, everyone I have ever asked questions of, have been more than happy to answer, and usually with advice I eventually followed. To have been able to have had someone (a mentor) come out to my bee yard to help me get set up, and to answer questions of the moment, would have been a great help, I think. I say think, because that didn’t happen, still hasn’t happened, even though I have asked long term members of the club to come out to my bee yard to help me understand what was was going on with my bees. Thanks to your blog Rusty, and to some YouTube videos that I watch, always with skepticism, I have been able to determine what was wrong or going on, with my bees and what I needed to do about it. I too want to thank you, Rusty, for your blog. Keep up the good work.

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Larry. Gut feelings play a large part in my management too, which is why I always say “trust yourself.”

Eugene
Reply

As a new beekeeper (4 years) I have not had a mentor but I do consider your blog a real source of information and refer to it when I have questions so I guess you are a mentor via technology. So when someone asks me a question I can say “well my beeinternet mentor …“

Rusty
Reply

Eugene,

Interesting. I never think of myself as a mentor, I just mention options.

Paul G
Reply

I DO Mentor many people every year, I build hives and start new people on, what I hope is, a good basic path to being successful in being a good steward over the bees in their hives. I make myself available at all hours, I have had calls as late as 10:15 at night, and I am a constant student of the science of keeping our bees alive, and healthy. I ask people to question anything I recommend and be willing to research for the best methods. I have been studying to become a master bee keepers in the future, and have an extensive library to draw from. I like your article, and I think that it is true there are some that will not guide new bee keeper well, but, there are some that are great, I strive to give honest proven methods to those who learn from me.

Sarah
Reply

I totally agree! I had a mentor, and it was a nightmare. Like Heather’s mentor, mine would move so quickly I had no idea what he was doing, or, more importantly, WHY. Unlike Heather’s mentor, when I would ask why, etc, he would become grumpy. While he’s a great beekeeper, he is definitely a curmudgeon. So last year I struck out on my own (year 5 of beekeeping), and I feel so much more confident now! If I have a question or want to try something new, I start with every post I can find about a subject on this blog, then go to a few books or YouTube videos, and by that time I’m the thoroughly convinced that there are many right ways and very few wrong ways to do something. Common sense and respect for these creatures goes a long way!

Michelle Wolfson
Reply

I have apprenticed for two years with mentor and am now getting my own hives. My mentor asks me questions all the time and forces me to think about my decisions. He pushes me to challenge his ways and he steers me to read about other methods. I think that together we both become more knowledgeable beekeepers.

Rusty
Reply

Michelle,

Sounds like a win-win.

Caleb
Reply

I have to agree with the other comments on here Rusty. You are an excellent mentor through this site. Your articles and answers have changed the way I think and practice many aspects of beekeeping. While I don’t have a direct mentor, I have gotten a tremendous amount of knowledge from sites like yours. I still take advantage of any local knowledge I can’t get online through our beekeepers association. But like everything else in life I take it with a grain of salt. Especially if someone cannot tell me why I need to do something. This is why your site is so great because I can research what I need to know and decide for myself the best path to take. Jayce O’Neal once wrote “If you think you know everything; you know nothing. If you think you know nothing; you know something”. While this applies to lots of things, I think it is especially true in beekeeping.
Thank you very much for all the hard work you put into building and maintaining this site.

Rusty
Reply

Caleb,

Thanks. And I love the O’Neal quote. It goes along with the idea that the more you learn, the less you know. At first you don’t know what you don’t know, but as you learn, you begin to realize the depth of your ignorance. At least, that’s how I feel.

Chris
Reply

Dear Rusty,

YOU are a fabulous mentor, with a scientific mind, an open mind, a facility for communicating, and you seem endlessly patient to me. You even specifically research questions or opinions from your readers in order to give an accurate answer! Thank you! That being said, the fact that we have access to so many on line resources, including videos, means that individual mentoring is not quite as essential as it might have been 10 or 20 years ago. I greatly appreciate your generosity and that of so many beekeepers in sharing their knowledge this way – not sure if I could have done without it.

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Chris. I agree that the internet has made a huge difference. For me, just that fact that I can often download scientific papers and current research is very cool. Usually by the time the bee journals and magazines arrive, I’ve already read most of it. The downside is that I’m often here in front of my computer when I should be out with my bees. Like right now, I’ve got fresh pollen patties on my kitchen table…

Del
Reply

Had a great mentor about 30+ years ago. He was the bee inspector for our county. Ernie was an old guy in his 60’s with the patience of Job, and a deep understanding of the girls. He had the time for newbies and would let me accompany him in his yards so I spent almost as much time with him as at my own apiary. His instructions were dialogs and learning from the bees themselves. He passed away years back, but I will always remember his wisdom about the bees. I never belonged to an association but when I had questions he was always there. Now I’m that mentor, teaching the love of bees as we promote their health and lives.

Now that we have the internet one can find all kinds of advice on (pick a problem) for us beekeepers, thankfully for us there seems to bee less bad advice mixed in with the good. That does not in my estimation take the place of a good mentor or let’s call her/him a beekeeping friend.

Books and classrooms do not take the place of experience. Sadly, I also note that everyone (including experienced beekeepers) is soooo busy that they do not make time for others – thus mentors are hard to find.

We beekeepers are blessed by the hum of our girls telling us to slow down for a moment and be in their time and world – Most of the time they are our teachers.

Li
Reply

I love that last sentence:)

Anna
Reply

What an intriguing post. My journey as a mentor started when I had to unexpectedly mentor myself. Thankfully, I had read, and read and read for a year before I got bees so I had a pretty decent understanding of what to expect and how to go about “keeping bees.”

At this point, I have been a mentor for a few years and find variability in both the quality of my mentees and the quality of fellow mentors. I am very much a “hands-on” kind of mentor, I go out to the new beekeeper’s hives and we go through the hives together. If I feel they are not handling the inspection with respect for the bees, I’ll take over and show them how I manipulate the frames to minimize carnage. I always quiz them on the basics and explain what I’m seeing and what we’re looking for.

I can’t mentor people via email only, I need to see the action. So my ability to take on mentees every year is pretty limited as I still assist old mentees at times.

There are those mentees who want me to do everything for them and make all their decisions, which I refuse to do. And then there are those that can take over their own inspections and just touch base with me if they have a question or a concern or want to go over a strategy. Thankfully, I have more of the latter than the former 🙂

All of my mentees are ALL encouraged to READ books and USEFUL websites (I send them here to you Rusty) but I find the vast majority of the new beekeepers grossly underestimate how much there is to learn and understand about bees and the environment in which they live and the conditions in which they THRIVE. We need more thoughtful beekeepers and mentors.

Rusty
Reply

Anna,

I agree that quite a few people start without realizing how complex beekeeping can be. I’m sure that accounts for the roughly 80% that don’t make it past the first year. But if you like a challenge, look no further.

Michael Skeels
Reply

I have considered you my mentor since reentering beekeeping a few years ago. You may not know it but you have done an excellent job. Thank you.

Rusty
Reply

Michael,

Thank you and thanks again for your contributions. I honestly never thought of myself as a mentor, I just like to record the things I’ve learned. But if it works, that’s a plus.

Lisa
Reply

So happy you put that out there. I went without a mentor and have two hives and a nuc come through this, my first year. I read books, watched videos on line, and examined all the supply catalogs. There was a lot of “what do you use that for?” I never felt confident going in. But I did feel sure of one thing. How I wanted to keep bees. I wanted to part of the solution and not part of the problem. To care for them as the marvelous creatures they are. Proceeds being incidental. Then I found Honeybeesuite and through your blog I did have confidence! I loved that you put the bee’s health first. You are a mentor Rusty and we appreciate your every word.

You may feel like you are neglecting your bees but you are saving ours!
Lisa

Rusty
Reply

Lisa,

You reminded me that years ago (pre-internet) I depended on supply catalogs for a lot of learning. I figured if a piece of equipment existed, it must answer some problem, and then I tried to learn about the problem. I’d forgotten about that.

BeeHappy
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I would disagree, all these folks who think they did it on their own, did have mentors. At the end of the day if you are capable of paying attention the bees are your mentor.

Authors of books and articles they read, and all the web sites they have browsed to, are mentoring them.
Most people by the time they buy their first bees have spoken to several people and/or read several articles or blogs about bees. A better statement may be that mentoring has changed over the years. Or personal mentoring is being replaced by social media mentoring.

A second point is, from the bees point of view, if I were a bee I would want a mentor for my keeper, seriously should the newbie make all the mistakes on my colony. Not enough space, no formula for adding room, no pest monitoring, too hot, too cold. Why should bees suffer from ignorant new beekeepers, who think, I’ll just go it alone.

I would think non-mentored people (no books or web sites, as that is mentoring), would be about as fun for the bees as a 4 year old carrying a cat by the neck. I have mentored people, it is unlikely I will again. New folks seem to read 10 ways to do something and want you to explain them all. You mentioned common sense, I have seen common sense dry up, in many of the millennials I have spoken to . As well, seems my time has no value to them, so the communication is a point that needs to be covered, like if you commit to beekeeping then follow thru. Do not stand up your mentor for a meet, etc.

Not everyone is cut out to keep bees, nor is every one cut out to be a beekeeping mentor. As with construction, stone and brick laying, welding, etc. most people that go far in an endeavor, learned from somebody who gave them a good head start.

Finding a mentor you can learn from is invaluable, someone who has walked the walk, cannot be a hindrance to you if you plan to walk the walk. If you EXPECT them to spoon feed you the way you want at the pace you want then maybe it is you that is the problem. If your mentor is going too fast tell them, ask for homework if you feel lost, etc. Or get a different one.

IMO a mentor can give you a 5 to 10 year head start, depending on how well you communicate with each other. I guess finding the right mentor for you is going to be your first challenge.

If you want to make all the mistakes on your own and take the hard knocks then go for it, but realize the bees may suffer, and that I would not be supportive of.

Grumpy old beekeeper

Richard Caton
Reply

Hello Rusty

Very interesting topic. I work as a maintenance tec and licensed electrician and have been mentored and mentor other people most of my life. Some people are great and others worthless. The worthless ones will horde their knowledge and look down on you. They were very brilliant and experienced people but we had no place for them where everyone has to work together and communicate information.

The best mentoring I have experienced is hands on. There is a saying out there. “Tell me and I forget.” “Show me and I remember.” “Involve me and I understand.” The mentor should get you involved. You go in the hive and pull a frame etc. Hands on, get involved. I jumped into beekeeping with both feet and no mentor. Watched a lot of U-Tube videos and read a lot of books and still made a lot of stupid (costly) mistakes. Would a mentor have helped? Possibly. Some of the best knowledge and advice I have found has been on your website. Thank you very much for what you do.

Walt
Reply

I disagree with the Grumpy Old Beekeeper. I think he should go to the dictionary and study up on what a mentor is. Mentoring requires some interaction. You don’t get that from books, internet and usually not with just talking with friends. Do an internet search and find how many say mentoring is personal between two people.

John Zone 5
Reply

First off, you are a great mentor to all who read you and I am thankful. Since most of us also get info on You Tube, I would like to offer the videos/channels “Honey Bee Honey” and David Burns-Long Lane Honey Bees as two good places to learn. Also, George Imirie’s Pink Sheets (Google it) are good reading. Whenever I watch or read advice I always keep in mind something you preach-all beekeeping is local.

Erin
Reply

Our state master beekeeper program (OR) encourages journey levels to mentor and requires master levels to mentor. They also provide guidance on how to be a mentor. And the apprentice level beekeepers are assigned to a mentor. I had one not great and two amazing mentors under that program. I have my first mentee this year. I will endeavor not to be a horrible mentor to her.

Why won’t those hives tip over? I honestly have no idea. Dumb luck? It looks dangerous; someone should fix it. I wonder if the boxes crashed to the ground 3 minutes later.

(Although, it might be that the camera or photo got tilted to make the beekeeper look upright when it’s really the beekeeper that’s not perpendicular to earth)

Renaldo
Reply

It (beekeeping) turns out to be much harder and complicated that I thought when we started 4 years ago. Bought equipment, dumped in some bees, added sugar syrup, piled on supers. Then we stole honey from them and watched them die. Then we didn’t steal honey from them and watched them die. Then we watched them swarm and leave a weak colony which promptly died. Read this and that, monitor your site weekly. Did research. Feel like we MIGHT have learned almost enough to be just ignorant and not quite stupid. It hit 70 today here in southern Oregon. Our one surviving colony is flying by the thousands (hundreds?) A two deep base, no supers. Treated for mites September 1 and think that may have helped. This spring (soon) we will start adding supers. The wild plums are in bloom, the pussy willows are in bloom and our maple trees are budding out. Feel like we have climbed mount Everest. Thank you for your work and wit.

Rusty
Reply

Renaldo,

I’m so glad you have one that made it. Congratulations. Yes, beekeeping is much harder and more complicated than beginners can understand. We humans have made it hard by mucking with the environment, something early beekeepers didn’t have to content with. But in spite of everything, it’s worth it…such a humbling learning experience.

Glen Buschmann
Reply

HI Rusty –

A mentor is also only as good as the mentee. As a student we’d rather nod and make listening noises long after our brainbox is full to capacity, than to confess our condition — or see a new way through it.

As a teacher I learn more from criticism and challenges than from compliments. I like compliments, don’t get me wrong. But as a student, do you want to learn, or do you want to remember a teacher’s flaws?

Rusty
Reply

Glen,

Flaws aren’t necessarily bad. One of the favorite teachers I mentioned above—ninth grade English composition—was a witch. The devil incarnate. Every weekend we had to read some obscure novel and every Monday in class we had to write the answer to a perplexing question about the obscure book. Any one error in spelling, grammar, diction, or punctuation earned an automatic failure. One. At the time, I loathed that women. She gave me heart palpitations. But I have to tell you, she taught me how to write, a skill that changed the course of my life.

Jeff
Reply

Gosh, I’m so glad we do not have any ogre like that here. One that is such a stickler for correct spelling, grammar, diction and punctuation.

You loathed that woman at one time, yet you took on some of the very traits that caused such loathing and became quite passionate about them.

Rusty
Reply

Jeff,

Yup. You caught me.

Kim
Reply

I like a more casual approach. “Mentor” seems so formal and puts expectations on the relationship. When I decided to take it up, I contacted a local beekeeper that has been doing it for over 50 years and asked if I could come check out his bees. He’d just caught a swarm and was excited to share. I learned a ton from that first visit, and am very grateful for it. From there I’ve met other beekeepers in the area, which is very helpful and fun! He came over to help me a couple of times when I first got my bees, and I can always ask him questions, but I never called him a mentor. 🙂 There’s just so much that can be learned from others. Keep it light.

terri
Reply

I must have missed something, are people being forced to have mentors? If they don’t want one, why not just speak up and say no thanks?

Hopefully, rational people will realize that a mentor is not some sort of magician who can make everything go right with your new hive; they are just a source of advice which, just as in the myriad of books on the subject, .can be taken or left.

Rusty
Reply

Terri,

You are right, of course. Mentors are not forced on anyone, but they seem to be expected. If you’re not the type, you should indeed say no.

Jerry
Reply

Rusty:

One thing I’ve learned is that 100 beekeepers will provide 100 different answers to any given topic. That, and having no mentor has made your site a great baseline of information. I was wondering how you remove the bees from the honey supers during harvest. I’m just entering my second year and hope to get some honey if conditions allow, but am a little nervous about fume boards.

Thank you.

Jerry
Reply

As far as not using leftover honey to prevent the spread of possible disease, does freezing the frames of honey first (and allowing them to thaw) reduce that risk? I have some frames of honey that I was hoping to use to jump start new packages.

Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Jerry,

Freezing kills some things but not others. It will certainly not kill the spores of AFB or EFB. But if your colonies did not die of those diseases, using leftover honey is great for getting new colonies started. I do it all the time.

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