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When I decided that I definitely wanted to become a beekeeper, I instantly started considering whether or not I would do one hive or two hives. My initial snap decision was that I would use this year as a learning year. I would get my bees and hive equipment next year.
So I began the process of looking for a beginner beekeeping class to become more educated about the choices I needed to make in caring for the bees, equipment to purchase, and do's and don'ts for a new beekeeper. Many beginner beekeeping classes happen in early winter, either January or February, and that was the case with our beekeepers club in Waynesville.
I really wanted an in-person class but new I had unfortunately missed my opportunity for a local class. That started a quest to find an alternative. Since I work in technology and have a past background working in distance learning, I decided to look around the web to see if I could find an online beginner's class.
To my surprise, I found PerfectBee's online course and immediately signed up so that I could start going through the content. I have to say that the course exceeded my expectations and taught me quite a bit.
One article in particular caught my attention, Why Have More Than One Beehive?. Reading through this article and my own personal reading made me wonder if I had made a good decision to go with one hive. Naturally, being cost conscious I wanted my start as a beekeeper to be on solid footing. What's a new beekeeper to do?
Mark's article contains six key elements to consider when deciding whether to start with a single hive or two hives:
I encourage you to not only read my blog post but read Mark's entire post. My summary of the key concepts in my own terminology and thought process doesn't do his more detailed explanations justice.
[pullquote align="normal"]I like pulling on a baggy bee suit, forgetting myself and getting as close to the bees' lives as they will let me, remembering in the process that there is more to life than the merely human.
Sue Hubbell, A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them [/pullquote]
So at this point, I had taken the PerfectBee course but still really wanted an in-person course. I wanted to have an experienced beekeeper to speak to about my thoughts and concerns.
As luck would have it, our local bee shop, Wild Mountain Bees, was hosting a new beekeepers class in their shop. My excitement was building through all of this. I had read copiously, had finished the online class, and had signed up for an in-person class.
A pleasant surprise awaited me at my beginner's class. Sarah McKinney was our teacher and she is a natural born storyteller. I had no idea that one person could fit so much information into six short hours.
During class, someone asked if there was an advantage to starting with two hives. My attention level definitely rose at that moment because this was the element that I was struggling with. Sarah's and Mark's recommendations agreed and convinced me that two hives helped the new beekeeper gain a better understanding of hive behavior and recover from potential problems.
My plan to do my research and learn this year then begin beekeeping next year died! The die cast; I decided not to wait. I reached out to some of my fellow beekeepers in the county. They shared their thoughts about one vs. two hives.
In every case, they all said that I could start with one hive, but a second gave me a fallback if something went wrong. It would also give me a comparison point to know how well the hive was really doing. The evidence was incontrovertible to me.
The logical choice was to start with two hives. I knew this would add start-up costs. But the researcher in me also knew the importance of having comparison points in data analysis.
I was now ready to get my bees started this year. The pictures I've included with this second post are of my two hives. Next week, I'll begin discussing my decisions concerning equipment with explanations of why I chose which equipment.
Until then, happy beekeeping!