6: Keep the Bees

Now that you have the bees, the equipment, and the student group, you need to know how to keep the bees.  Ideally, you've been reading up and checking out sites this whole time, learning what you can.  Winter is a great time to learn, because you can't do much with the bees.  But there's nothing better than actually getting out there and doing it. 
 
This website is not intended to teach you beekeeping, but will point you in the direction of where to go.

HOW TO LEARN BEEKEEPING:
as paraphrased from the Bee-Wrangler himself, Norman Gary:

1: STUDY (don't skim) three beginner beekeeping books. 
Read them carefully, because there's no reason to make expensive mistakes that could have been avoided.  For some good beginner beekeeping books, I'd recommend checking out your campus and/or public library.  Pick out the ones that you find the most useful, and then consider buying them for the club to teach newbies.  (N.E. Gary just came out with a new book, Honey Bee Hobbyist!)

2: CONNECT with local beekeeping clubs.  ATTEND meetings, and MAKE friends. 
These are the people who do beekeeping, will support your club, and provide close mentors.  These people are invaluable, but only if you make the effort. 

3a: MINIMIZE beekeeping practices, rituals, superstition based purely on tradition. 
Beekeeping is a science.  Bees are not little humans.  They are insects. 
3b: BEWARE of beekeeping information on web sites. 
Some are sponsored by commercial interests, others by amateur beekeepers who have more enthusiasm than experience.  Misinformation is rampant!
(for more related info, check out the article below!)

4: ENJOY beekeeping as a hobby. 
For the first years, it shouldn't be a business.  Two hives will supply all the honey you need.  Too many hives in an area greatly reduces the honey yield and good health of colonies because nectar and pollen sources are limited.  Furthermore, the idea of a student beekeeping program is to teach fellow students, and yourself.  Having too many hives could quickly get out of control. 

And one last suggestion from College Beekeeper:
5: WEBSITES can be helpful, sometimes. 
Check out our listed websites, which do have useful information.  Tutorials are great for learning the basics, and there are ways to contact beekeepers from around the world.  You'll only really know what's good information and bad information once you've done some beekeeping, so stick to your mentors, and published sources. 

The BIG question for learning beekeeping:

Do you have a PRIMARY LOCAL BEEKEEPER CONTACT? 

Many of the programs tend to make one or two really strong bonds with a local beekeeper.  I usually call that your 'Primary Beekeeper'.  They're the ones that really have your back, and from the start are really keen on helping the program getting going.  In the first year or two, they're going to be absolutely essential to your beekeeping activity.  As time goes on, your beekeeping club will gain more independence as the students become more knowledgeable, and pass the knowledge between.  It's still a good idea to maintain a close relationship with your Primary Beekeeper, as they'll always be a wealth of knowledge, but also be sure your group is independent enough to make things work on your own. 
Keep in mind that although you might have one beekeeper who always seems to be there, that you should still be aware of other beekeepers in the area.  Two reasons for this:
1- Your beekeeper might die.  Well, hopefully not that, but something could happen, they might be busy, traveling, etc.  And if you're in a bind, and it's time sensitive, you need to know someone else. 
2- There are many ways of doing things.  It's a good idea to see many.  And there are many things to learn, so perhaps there's something specific that another beekeeper is good at doing, and willing to give a workshop on.  So take advantage!  And make sure everyone knows what's going on. 

Your Primary Beekeeper contact can also be a good way to ease the pains of permission from your administration.  At the end of the day, the admin is scared that you'll get the bees, they'll thrive while you're there, and then they'll be abandoned when you leave.  See 'Make it Sustainable' for more information on that.  And it is a very important aspect to consider.  But by having a Primary Beekeeper contact, you can have the safety net to present to your administration, letting them know that if anything were to go wrong, XYZ beekeepers would come in and deal with the hives, and remove them if necessary.  But hopefully that won't happen. 

And as always, it's great to have a faculty member involved, because they provide continuity, and they can become your new Primary Beekeeper contact once they've had a few years under their belts. 


For more information about keeping your bees, check out the attached article by Randy Oliver, The "Rules" for Successful Beekeeping
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College Beekeeper,
Dec 17, 2011, 3:50 PM
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