Beecause I can, that’s why
I refer frequently to “Beekeeping Rule #1” when I teach classes and in various social media. My rules are something I just came up with one day in a joking reference to the old joke based on an old commercial listing reasons or excuses for using a particular product.
Most recently, I actually compiled a very short list of “Beekeeping Rules”according to how important I see them. These are “Big Bear’s Rules of Beekeeping”. In addition to the few rules, I also have tossed in some axioms that are particularly relevant to apiculture as I see it.
On to the list…
Big Bear’s Rules of Beekeeping
Rule #1: Bees are crazy.
One of the worst things we do when getting into playing with bees is to expect them to do things that make some sort of sense to us. We expect them to think and behave in accordance to the way humans think. They don’t. They don’t “reason” or think the way we do. compared to us, bees are truly and utterly crazy. Don’t let yourself bee fooled.
Rule #2: Have a Plan
Originally, and on a recent podcast episode, I said that I put this rule as #3 but I was wrong. It’s really second in line. I can’t stress the importance of having a plan for at least the next 12 months if not longer depending on the beekeeping you are involved in.
Axiom to Rule #2: Proper planning prevents poor performance.
The more in-depth your plan is, the better prepared you can be. It’s a horrible feeling walking up to a hive or multiple hives finding a die-out or major problem and knowing or finding out it was preventable or able to be corrected with basic early intervention. Planning out ahead of time sets you up for success. A proper plan includes;
Goals. What is the purpose or the point, the reason you are doing this?
Objectives. What specific things do you want to accomplish by the end of the season or time frame? Set up things that are measurable and trackable so that you can monitor your progress along the way.
Strategies. What methodologies and processes are you going to follow to achieve those goals an objectives? For example, will you include an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in your operation? How specifically will it be tailored to the way you are going to meet your goals and objectives?
Tactics. What specific techniques and tools, specific equipment and materials will you need to obtain and have ready to use? The tools and handling methods you use should be chosen to fit into your strategy and help you to meet your goals and objectives. Too often people choose the tools, equipment and methods they use with very little thought beyond cost or ease of use and end up causing themselves more trouble in the long run.
Rule #3: Bee Prepared
Back to the example of walking into an apiary and finding that there is a particular issue or problem. Maybe what you find is actually something you planned for. That’s good. Did you actually follow through and get all the tools, equipment and materials to do something about it? If you didn’t, you are probably in trouble. There are situations in the apiary when by the time you discover the issue, it’s too late. You might fix it if you deal with it on the spot. If you don’t have the things you need though, you will just be prolonging the inevitable.
Axiom to Rule #3; It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Your beekeeping is yours and yours alone. It’s fine to get advice from mentors, coaches, instructors and other beekeepers but always think for your self and specifically to your own goals and objectives. Those might not be the same as those other people and what those other people suggest may or may not work in your specific, particular situation. Don’t let yourself be bluffed, bullied or otherwise put in a corner to do “what everyone else does”. They’re your bees, your hives, your apiary and your goals. You need to make decisions to meet those, not what someone else is doing.
An axiom without a rule
While all of the above are things I find to be very important, critical actually, to apicultural success, I have a saying that overrules all of them.
Beekeeping should be fun.
By extension, all things related to beekeeping should be fun, bee clubs and associations, running honey booths and information tables. Whatever. If beekeeping isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.
For those involved in professional apiculture, no, it won’t always be fun because it’s business and business means hard work and effort. Even so, it should be satisfying and fulfill your passion. If not, you’re in the wrong business.