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.
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.
Imaginary experts. Every forum has one.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.
Yup. I've seen it in gardening, chicken keeping, horse circles, and many more.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………
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.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.
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 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'. You can see more, including a photo, here:
The lucky part? That burl on the side of the trunk?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.