Muttered around the beekeeping associations and mentioned in many presentations from other speakers, I continue to hear the statement that,“80% of all beginning beekeepers will have quit within their first two years.”
I’m still looking for the data to substantiate that conclusion, but most of us who have been at this hobby for more than ten years will validate the general thought that many of the people who jumped into beekeeping are no longer keeping bees.
The attrition rate is rather astounding and concluding 80% have quit is not far out of line.
So what does it take to get started, successfully, such that you do not become another statistic? I have three things I share when approached by interested parties wishing to start beekeeping. These three things will not guarantee your success, but they will increase the likelihood of your tenure in the bee yard.
Read, read, read and get your hands on all the information you can
find. In the old days, this meant a futile trip to the local library. There were few books published in those days. However, today, it’s a different story and information is abundantly available with the click of a mouse.
The good news is there is a lot of information out there on the Internet. The bad news is there is a lot of information out there on the Internet. With the proliferation of beekeeping came the proliferation of folks with two years experience who thought they were now experts. Read all the information you can find, but be ready to sift a lot of chaff to find those few, golden kernels of wheat.
Opinions vary wildly, and widely on the Internet.
Second, find a local association or a local bee club.
In the beekeeping profession, we like to say,“All beekeeping is local,” which means what works for me in southeast Missouri won’t necessarily work in Montana or Minnesota. A local bee association will help you fine-tune all that information you read on the Internet, so you can adjust it to your local region.
Third, find a mentor.
A good mentor will bridge the gap between knowledge and application.
A good mentor is like a coach. A coach can help get you in the game, but they cannot play the game for you. A good mentor will take you out into the bee yard and point out the things books cannot teach, and a good mentor will patiently listen to all your questions that start out with, “But I read on the Internet....”
You'll probably find a mentor at your local bee association, and most experienced beekeepers are open to helping beginners.
Fourth, and I know I said there would be three things, trust the bees to be your teacher.
There are a hundred different ways to keep bees and all of these ways may be right, or they may be all wrong. If your bees flourish, you’re doing a good job and the bees will give you a passing grade. If your bees die, then they have taught you a valuable lesson in what not to do.
This may be the most challenging time to keep bees. Success is not easy. Do not enter lightly, and do not give up prematurely. Most of all, do not think beekeeping is easy.