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Rusty at HoneyBeeSuite has put us all in our place pretty accurately with this well thought out post about the learning curve of beekeeping.

enjoy...

If you are prickly, easily offended, or a second- or third-year beekeeper, please do not read this. Hey, you! Yes, you, the second-year beekeeper out there who is trying to sneak a peek! Please go away!

Wow, that was close. Anyway, for the rest of you, I have completed a one-sided, unscientific, and misguided study on the knowledge base of beekeepers correlated with the length of time they’ve been keeping bees. And this is what I found:

The beekeepers who know the least are the first years. No surprise here. Many don’t know a mite from a mouse—after all, they both live in hives—but that’s okay because they are soaking up knowledge and learning fast. They read, attend classes, ask questions. They are grateful for any help they can get.

The beekeepers who know the most, those who actually know everything there is to know, are the second- and third-years. If there is a question, they have the answer. If you have an opinion, they will let you know what they think of it—and you. They don’t read, because they could write it better. They don’t listen, because they could say it better. Trust me, there is not one thing about bees that they don’t know. If you need a fast answer and confident opinion, they are the people to see. I am happy for them as they revel in their vast knowledge.

Then, long about the fourth year, something happens—their knowledge begins to erode. It’s not that they know less, it’s that they know so much that they begin to realize how much more there is to learn. It dawns on them they’ve seen but the tip of the iceberg. They begin to see issues as complex rather than simple. They begin to see answers as multi-faceted, not smooth and round. The amount they want to learn slowly grows until it becomes infinite.

You’ve heard of the “tree of knowledge?” Well, I think of it like this: The first years are on the ground, right where the tree breaks through the soil. The second- and third-years are on the trunk where everything is smooth, well-defined, and nothing is messy. Those who’ve been at it longer are up in the limbs, branches, and twigs where every question has more than one answer and all the pathways are obscured by leaves.

Knowledgeable beekeepers start sentences with indeterminate words like, “sometimes,” “often,” or “possibly.” They read, go to lectures, search the web, and experiment. Each year that passes, as their knowledge increases in multiples, they feel they know less . . . and they want to know more. They are awed by the bees, mesmerized, humbled. They never have fast answers, only well-considered opinions that are tempered with experience and the realization that there are no easy answers—not about bees.

But, yes, the exception makes the rule. Of course there are second- and third-years who are not know-it-alls and old-timers who are. Furthermore, I don’t really think the progression from knowing nothing, to knowing everything, to knowing just a portion is bad. It’s just the way it is.

I am speaking partially from experience gathered from my website, classes I’ve taught, and lectures I’ve given, and partially from being there. I used to know way more about bees than I do now. Actually, I used to know just about everything. But once I began studying bee nutrition, pathogens, pesticide interactions, reproduction, genetics, health, hygienic behavior, flower selection, pollen composition, communication, social interaction, nest-site selection, and environmental stressors . . . well, let’s just say I know less and less every day.

‘Nuf said. Now back to the books before I lose a few more percentage points.

Rusty
 

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Well said. I have been there too. I was really smart my second year but that third one humbled me in a big way. Thanks for sharing.
 

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That is a rather true assessment. although it may not be a blanket assessment It's basic theory is exactly correct. How many Newbees have you seen on forums asking the most rudimentary of beekeeping questions, Then a few months later passing out advice as though they were seasoned veterans. As if that were not enough some will argue their new found theory with people who have been successful beekeepers for decades.

It is like the old man said to the 15 year old. Enjoy! You will never know more than you do right now!
 

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I think this is true in most all venues. After a year or two of working as a petroleum engineer, I was very smart and quick with advice. Now, some 50 years later I am apt to tell clients and others, "give me some time to think this over, and I will get back to you." All fields of endeavor, have so much to learn in a short life time. On the other hand, I sometimes learn from people with less experience and education, so………
 

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Rusty is a pretty wise fellow and a good writer. I know less and less about more and more. The faster I go the behinder I get.
 

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Yuppers I vote that i am the one he is preaching about.. I still believe i can raise my own queens... I can do it . i think i can i think i can
 

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My earliest recollections of beekeeping were puffing the bee smoker for dad as a little boy over 50 years ago. I remember well, "smoke, smoke, no, stop, too much".....:)
Where am I on the learning tree? Well I'm somewhere above those sturdy first limbs. No one ever quite reaches those wispy top branches, though. I am fond of saying that I have screwed up enough times that I know all the things you shouldn't do. Now, to figure out what you should do. Yes, I have gotten drawn into a few debates with some ardent newbies. It's rarely productive.
 

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How many Newbees have you seen on forums asking the most rudimentary of beekeeping questions, Then a few months later passing out advice as though they were seasoned veterans. As if that were not enough some will argue their new found theory with people who have been successful beekeepers for decades.
Imaginary experts. Every forum has one.

Wayne
 

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Actually as a third year beekeeper and doing quite well as such. I think there is very little insight to his opinion. Do I have fast answers to many things Yes I do. are they mine. no in fact most of them are yours. I am freshly read from two hard years of gathering it. That it is unreliable is a reflection of your knowledge not mine.
 

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Let me be clear. Almost all the newcomers on here are very respectful and hungry for knowledge. I'm always happy to interact with them. The argumentative type are the rare exception and not the rule and even those seem to mellow as their level of experience grows.
 

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I am a first year newbee but being with my mentor (50 plus years beekeeper) has taught me more things I ever imagined.
So far I have learned(and done) Feeding sugar blocks,feeding pollen patties,cleaning deadouts,assembling hives,splitting hives ,making nucs,
requeening, and now making grafts.

I try to offer some advice on what I have seen and learned so far.But as my mentor has told me is that he is still learning and making mistakes after all these years.

I am trying to figure out where I'm at on the tree of knowledge since I'm out with my mentor working bees 20 to 30 hours a week.
 

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I'm a first year beek, and I try to throw out an answer every chance I can. This is especially true when there are no other responses to the post. I do try to qualify it with either stating that I'm in my first year or that I have read something that pertains to the question. I am always looking to get corrected so that I get a chance to learn more. Also, I love to experiment with new ideals. I like to find out how many ways can you break something, and sometimes, how to get it put back together.
 

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I think this is true in most all venues. ... All fields of endeavor, have so much to learn in a short life time. On the other hand, I sometimes learn from people with less experience and education, so………
Yup. I've seen it in gardening, chicken keeping, horse circles, and many more.

I grew up in a family that grew all their own food, so I've been gardening a few years. Now I'm a horticulturist at a local organic garden center which means I'm the person customers bring their problems to and ask what's wrong and what to do about it. I see this exact thing every day. When I encounter one of "those" second or third year gardeners who ask my opinion, then argue with it enough to set my teeth on edge, I just keep remembering this quote from Thomas Jefferson, one of the fathers of American agriculture, said when he was 72 years old ~ "Though an old man, I am yet a young gardener." Then I just smile as I remember that Mother Nature will kick the ****y right out of them soon enough.
 

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I am starting my second season. My pitfalls seem endless. Certainly more bumps this year than last. I cringe at the thought of what next year will bring.

Each question leads to many more.

I have no mentor so am so very grateful for the generosity of this forum.
 

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Hah, I am just the littlest preschooler in beekeeping then.
At the end of the paragraph really humbled me down. I haven't learn about
bee nutrition and genetics yet. Still a long road for me to travel on. Keep on learning then.
So I just learn about building hive equipments and raising queens now. :) Still a long way to go.
 

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My earliest recollections of beekeeping were puffing the bee smoker for dad as a little boy over 50 years ago. I remember well, "smoke, smoke, no, stop, too much".....:)
Where am I on the learning tree? Well I'm somewhere above those sturdy first limbs. No one ever quite reaches those wispy top branches, though. I am fond of saying that I have screwed up enough times that I know all the things you shouldn't do. Now, to figure out what you should do. Yes, I have gotten drawn into a few debates with some ardent newbies. It's rarely productive.
I bet u have gotten to a place where u recognize something is wrong or right w/out thinking. You have so much "been there, done that" under your belt that lots of things don't phase u. Life experience and the willingness and ability to share that w/ others who may have less is invaluable. And u do it so well, w/out malice. Unlike my socially inept self.
 

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> Rusty is a pretty wise fellow and a good writer.

I hope I'm not being too argumentative,:) but I'm pretty sure Rusty is not a 'fellow'. :rolleyes: You can see more, including a photo, here:

http://www.honeybeesuite.com/about/about-me/
Thanks Graham. I didn't know that. Maybe I should have said "wise guy", since the word "guy" seems to have become genderless. Though "wise guy" could have been mistaken for "wiseguy". Which has its own stereotypical connotation.

Rusty should include a photo on her blog page so chauvanists like myself don't make that mistake.
 
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