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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been invited to do a talk at a nearby bee club later this month. They had a beekeeping short course in January and had about 90 attendees. Each year, following their short course they get a spike of new members.

The topic they asked me to address is Expectations and Realities of Beekeeping (The First Two Years)

I have a number of ideas but thought I might get some more good ones here.

Thanks
Dan Harris
 

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Starting 3rd year 6a. First 2 colonies perished. 5 colonies going into fall alive and flying as of yesterday. Its about taking this vast body of knowledge and boiling it down to knowing what my limited job is and doing it well. The 4 basic things are 1) mite control 2) nutrition 3) queen efficacy 4) equipment/housing/getting hvac right. Everything beyond that usually fits into a subset of one of the 4.

Learn from your bees. They are your best teachers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Starting 3rd year 6a. First 2 colonies perished.
We're on a similar thought plane. My first slide so far is 'Harden Your Heart'. I plan to speak to being prepared to accept losses without losing heart.
 

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The reality is do not expect any excess honey. If you think you have some, the reality is it is mostly sugar water if you have been feeding like you should to get them to build comb. The reality is you can never have enough drawn comb, so expect to concentrate on getting that done the first few years. Expect that they will swarm. There are many swarm control methods, but the reality is that this is the hardest part of beekeeping. J
 

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As with any presentation it is of the utmost importance to clearly separate opinion from research based info commonly accepted or facts.
Any comments of opinion should be clearly stated as only opinion and not either research based nor fact based.
A list of references should be distributed for the research based and/or facts presented.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My vision for this talk isn’t about the nuts and bolts of beekeeping. Many of these folks will have just completed a short course. For me to come along and give them another 45 minutes of ‘how to’ doesn’t seem to be the topic I was invited to speak to.
Things like expecting losses. Being wary of misinformation on the internet and the value of a ‘real world’ mentor. One of my slides is ‘Ask 5 Different Beekeepers the Same Question’. And explain how they are likely to get different and sometimes conflicting answers.
I surely will discuss how easy it is to overlook and ignore varroa. I don’t plan to discuss treatment strategies. When I do talks that include varroa….rather than promoting a particular approach….I suggest that people find an experienced and successful mentor that follows their philosophy. I recommend that the mentor should have at least five years of beekeeping without having to purchase replacement bees.
I am particularly good about using the phrases ‘in my experience’ or ‘in my opinion’. I’ve heard too many people who state their opinions as irrefutable fact. I consciously avoid it.
I will try to record the talk and post it on YouTube…but these things don’t always work out.
 

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A couple of years ago I listened to Randy Oliver speak here in Everett WA. One of the grafts he showed had 4 phases to beekeeping in the order they happen:
1. The peak of inflated expectations
2. The trough of disillusionment
3. The slope of enlightenment
4. The plateau of productivity

My experience is that beekeeping is just like sex. You can read, watch videos and study all you like but the reality of beekeeping or sex is nothing like what you studied.

Beginners are very excited about taking up a new hobby with good reason. Beekeeping is fun. But it is also heartbreaking. Hives die and it is not necessarily the beekeeper's fault. It is important that new beekeepers are aware of this fact. Learning beekeeping is not a one class and I know everything undertaking. You will learn every day you continue with it. I would also stress that the most important goal the first 2 years is keeping the hive(s) alive. Finally, while I admire the goal of treatment free beekeeping, it is NOT for beginners in my opinion. It is a complicated process that requires more knowledge and experience than 99% of all beginning beekeepers have and should be avoided by beginning beekeepers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I might *borrow* Randy Oliver’s list.
treatment free beekeeping, it is NOT for beginners in my opinion.
I believe that I indirectly address this. When I advise new beekeepers to seek a successful beekeeping mentor who keeps bees with a philosophical method that they share…someone who hasn’t had to buy replacement bees for at least five years…..in this part of the country they will be challenged to find a treatment free mentor who meets that qualification. It isn’t impossible but I don’t know any.
 

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Be ready for predictable events. Varroa, swarming, needing more equipment, winter, queen loss. All these things WILL come to pass. Have an idea what your response will be before they happen.

I was NOT ready my second year when I got a mite explosion. I dithered then too late bought Apivar strips. Applied promptly they might have done some good. As it was, it was months too late.
 

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The emotional journey is critically important. The main thing that will determine success beyond the first year is determination. I’m pretty smart. But I was pretty deflated after losing my first colonies. Instead of giving up I doubled down. This year I started with 4 and ended with 5. Just yesterday on my birthday I sat on the ground a few feet from my hives and watched them bring in dry pollen substitute in masse. I’m not even sure how long I sat there. It’s a hobby that’s deeply satisfying.

Be sure to tell them to be kind to themselves as they learn.
 

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I agree that discussing the likelyhood that all their hives will die the first year is crucially important. It is part of learning to be a beekeeper. Also important is the need to wear proper protective clothing. A new beekeeper should expect to get stung as they learn how to handle the bees. Trying to work the bees in shorts and a tee shirt like they see in so many youtube videos will make a new beek afraid to work the hives the first time the bees get defensive.
 

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The best advice that I was given by the guy who sold me the nuc in 2013 for my first hive (which was a topbar hive), was "expect them to die this winter". In hindsight, he was probably telling me that because most the beekeepers in my area are dead set against topbar hives, but it was a great way of pushing me to read absolutely everything I possibly could to understand bee biology. Not only did they not die, but I ended up starting a group to teach others how to manipulate the bees in topbar hives. I think newbees lean too heavily on a mentor their first few years without accepting responsibility to learn all they can about beekeeping.
 

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what I am learning going into year 4, beekeeping books don't acknowledge enough regional differences. Usually written from a Northern point of view regarding the winter, for example.
 

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You appreciate that there are different philosophies in this hobby. I think that will be an advantage at the meting. Hobbyists all have differing goals. Some may want honey, some may want a “flying ant farm”, others may just want to socialize and bees are the outlet. I’m sure it will go well.
 

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I'm curious why so many say to expect the bees to die .
I would say rather, Kill the mites, make sure they have plenty of stores, and expect them to be alive and well in spring.

I took up beekeeping on a whim before mites and also before the internet.
I learned using books and bee journals.

Many times I found myself wondering, What is going on here?
Often I would close the hive back up, sit down and mentally go over what I had read. Sometimes I would have a "Oh yeah!" moment and remember what I should be doing. Other times I would leave well enough alone and do some more reading.
Eventually I got it.

Tell your folks to be ready for the unexpected, don't panic. You're better off most times doing nothing rather than buggering things up.

Expect the bees to cooperate only as far as they feel like it. They do as they please. Learn to set them up to do as they please in a way that works for you also.

Kill the mites!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
A sincere thank you to everyone who has replied.
There are a number of thoughts in your posts that I hadn’t considered that will be incorporated in my talk. Some of your ideas will allow me to better expand on ideas that I had already included.
It is an unusual topic for me. I am typically asked to talk about nuts and bolts sort of things. Swarm prevention, mite management, basic biology and that sort of thing. This is a different direction. Yet once I considered the topic they asked me to talk about, I realized that it is actually a very important area to reflect on.
Thank you again!
 

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As a newer beekeeper, feeding pollen and syrup specifically when too use what seem to be most confusing(locally that is). I also started attending local club meetings and a large portion of the club are extremely interested in how to grow their apiary, and techniques that small hobbies could utilize(most do not want to get into queen rearing or purchase queens, I am neither of those).

Covering those subjects for beeks entering their 2nd year would be extremely useful. Especially for those of us who got lucky and didn't loose any hives. How to manage the growth can be overwhelming with the large number of opinions on how to grow and/or limit growth.
 

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We're on a similar thought plane. My first slide so far is 'Harden Your Heart'. I plan to speak to being prepared to accept losses without losing heart.
I've done similar talks, and have been asked to do it again this spring for multiple clubs on the island.

The talk I do for expectations and realities starts with first slide showing picture of a case of honey with one jar open and the dipper on that jar. That slide is labelled 'Expectations'. Now advance to the next slide, this one is labelled 'Reality'. Photo in this slide is a large swarm hanging in a branch just out of reach.
 

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I offer a simple outline to explain Expectations and Realities: Alternative Expectation - "Quit now and avoid the Rush Later". Reality - " It's really hard work to learn how to be a beekeeper", Wrap up advice - "Just Do It", Closing - "Smile when you get your first sting".
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The talk I do for expectations and realities starts with first slide showing picture of a case of honey with one jar open and the dipper on that jar. That slide is labelled 'Expectations'. Now advance to the next slide, this one is labelled 'Reality'. Photo in this slide is a large swarm hanging in a branch just out of reach.
Would you allow me to use this? I promise to give you credit.
 
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