If 10 years ago you would’ve told me that I’d own a beekeeping company, I would’ve laughed so hard and called you a liar.
At the ripe age of 19, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life and wasn’t in any rush to figure it out. I just wanted to have fun like most teenagers and kids in their early 20s.
The reason I would’ve laughed so hard and called you a liar isn’t because I wasn’t thinking about my career at the time….. it’s because I was insanely afraid of bees!
If I saw a bee on a flower, I’d run away or walk very slowly around it as to not draw any attention towards myself. Thinking back on all of this, it is 2020 Tasha who is laughing hard.
But let’s go back…. back to when I finally got my first “real job” aka a nice office job at the Museum of Science. I loved working there, met a ton of amazing people, and was introduced to the world of the honey bee.
There was a wonderful exhibit all about honey bees. It featured an observation hive where you could see directly into the hive and watch the bees at work. It showed how to tell a worker, drone, and queen apart. It even touched on the incredible community that is a colony of bees.
The amazing part of this is that I had to walk past this exhibit to get to the office where I worked. Every morning I’d walk by, when I left for lunch I’d walk by, and when I went to the bathroom… I walked right by it.
When you walk by an exhibit so much that is constantly buzzing with life, you start to look at it more and more. It got to the point where if my boss couldn’t find me in the office, she’d call me and say “you’re by the bees aren’t you?”
She was right. I was by the bees. Staring into the hive, finding drones, taking videos and pictures to send to my boyfriend. My fear of bees turned into fascination. I learned that workers are all female and carry out almost all of the work inside the hive. The queen’s only job is to lay eggs to keep the population going.
Most of the time when we fear something, we just don’t understand it.
At this point in my life, I wanted to figure out my career. I was desperate and I was trying everything that I thought interested me. I switched majors more times than I’d like to admit and finally decided on Sustainability. Nature was always my passion and I told myself I’d figure it out after I got my degree.
Fast foward to the month I graduated college…. December 2016. Jovany met someone at our rock climbing gym who was a beekeeper. It turns out he had a hive he needed to get rid of and gifted us our first hive. After we got our first hive, the rest is pretty much history.
I was excited and absolutely terrified when they brought that beehive onto the roof of Jovany’s dad’s house. We hardly had any gear and knew the very basics about keeping bees. All I knew at the time was that bees were super cool and I wanted to learn as much as I could about them.
With that being said, my first tip for first year beekeepers is to LEARN BEFORE YOU GET BEES. Yes, the experience is king but knowledge will greatly help your experience as you begin to work bees. Buy books, follow beekeepers on social media, buy an online course, and when things get a little better, attend a workshop, and find a mentor!
I think learning about bee biology and bee behavior is important before you get bees. You should learn how bees communicate with each other, what they need to thrive, and what you can do to make sure they’re healthy.
My next tip is to get your gear and learn how to properly use it. Learn how to light a smoker and how to use a hive tool. Do your best to learn beekeeping terms. All of this will help you in the long run and will help you ask better questions to other experienced beekeepers. First year beekeepers should definitely find a few experienced beekeepers to ask any pressing questions.
We didn’t get appropriate gear until our second hive inspection and I wish I would’ve gotten it prior to bees to really get the hang of it all!
As the months passed, I got more and more comfortable with bees and was able to open hives with a lot more confidence and less fear. However, I wasn’t aware that honey bees have seasons much like anything else in life. So what happened? Our bees swarmed.
It’s important to learn the bee seasons in YOUR area because every climate is unique which greatly affects how bees live. For example, swarm season in Miami starts as early as February. While someone in Michigan won’t even think about swarms until May!
Beekeeping is one of the most rewarding hobbies I’ve ever done! Your first year beekeeping can be difficult and filled with unknowns, but know that everyone makes mistakes. That’s part of the fun! Learning from your mistakes and watching both you and your bees get better each season.
Best of luck to all the first year beekeepers out there!