If you haven’t read GOALS AND METHODS – PART 1 might wanna start there. This is part 2 of 3.
Your individual beekeeping plan is going to depend a lot on scale. A gardener will have a different plan for managing production on 2,000 square feet than the 10,000 acre farmer. If you’re doing this as a hobby you should NOT utilize methods of industrial or migratory beekeepers. Their goals, methods, and resources WILL be different than yours. A novice utilizing methods practiced by industrial beekeepers will be fraught with misery. A migratory keeper will be continually stressing their colonies each time they are moved. That stress has consequences that necessitate frequent inspection. A “hobbyist with a plan” is less likely to be repeatedly stressing their colonies so the need for frequent inspections is just not there.
How often and HOW should you inspect? It depends on your goals. If you are inspecting because, “……someone else said you should……”, SEND ME MONEY!! Just kidding… It was worth a shot. If you care enough to GET bees determine whether certain methods are beneficial and or necessary.
Example Goal: to LEARN ABOUT BEES. You may employ such techniques as frequent hive inspections in order to film, photograph, and document changes over time. It is important to understand that these inspections will have consequences. You don’t think so? Video tape a colony for 15 minutes prior, DURING, and 15 minutes after one of your inspections. If you have any vestige of animal husbandry DNA in your genome YOU WILL SEE A DIFFERENCE in behavior. What you will see is orderly workflow beforehand and confusion during and after inspection. The larger and more established the hive the greater the perceived difference will be. Tell me if your observations are different. If they are, post em on You-Tube and send me a link. The disruption oftentimes lasts for several hours after your inspection so remember that your meddling causes disruption for quite some time after you go home.
If you are using a colony for EDUCATIONAL purposes and inspections are frequent, THAT’S FINE, but expecting a honey crop from that hive may be an unreasonable secondary goal. Depending on the frequency and intrusiveness of your inspections expecting them to overwinter may be too much. That hive, or group of hives are producing an educational experience. It would be comparable to splitting a colony 4 or 5 ways and expecting 300# of honey out of any of them. Keep your expectations realistic and your chances of smiling will increase.
Just because your apiary is a hobby doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be productive. You just need to keep things in a different perspective. As a hobbyist you’re gonna have a job that will likely require your presence no matter what the weather throws at you. More complex beekeeping practices MUST be done on a strict time-schedule that must also be coordinated to some extent with weather conditions. Hobbyists will have fewer colonies that can be used for resources when problems occur. So why are wet-behind-the-ears hobbyist-oriented beekeepers always led down the path of treating, splitting, complicated hive manipulations, and other complex, time-sensitive beekeeping practices? It’s good for suppliers if inexperienced, resource-poor individuals are conducting high risk manipulations requiring purchase remedy X for potential failure Y, BUT IT’S NOT GOOD FOR YOU OR YOUR BEES. You should get comfortable with beekeeping before undertaking complicated procedures.
Successful methods are just waiting for you to utilize them. We’re pretty smart primates sometimes. If we put our minds to work we can surprise even ourselves. The FIRST Spring I kept bees I had several swarm calls. That was GREAT, but I was always at work when the phone rang. This presented a MAJOR barrier. I could have asked for special treatment at work, or just complained about the situation, but decided I needed a better plan than that. I needed to automate the process! That is what initially got me pointed in the direction of swarm trapping. A defined GOAL led me to a successful method. All of those swarm calls turned into locations that traps could be deployed. Now I go pick up colonies of bees when it’s convenient! Go monkey-brain!
Depending on your goals different methods will be necessary. There are times our actions have consequences that we will not predict. (See Farm Fox Experiment) Observed failures in your operation may not be the fault of “bees”, but the consequence beekeeper actions coupled with unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations as well as misinterpreting cause and effect relationships can be a huge barrier to your success (and happiness). This is where learning about biology and animal husbandry is very important. The more we insert ourselves into “bee business” the more risk we have of causing problems.
The more complicated the plan the harder it is to see to completion, so keep your plan as simple as possible, especially in the beginning. As you become more experienced you can get more complicated, but beekeeping DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ROCKET SCIENCE. We cannot forget that beekeeping was done successfully by illiterate people for thousands of years. Not STUPID people… Illiterate people who had an intimate understanding of animal husbandry. If you are reading this you have a huge advantage so capitalize.
In the next AND FINAL installment we will cover expectations a little more. Even experienced beekeepers don’t always think about just how much work must be done in order to have a productive colony.
Do you have clear goals?
How’s that plan coming along?
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