Learning Together and Forever

One aspect of beekeeping that is attractive for many is that the learning never stops. A great deal of information is available to you online and that content is ever expanding.

But any online content is really just there to kick-start and augment what you actually learn from your bees. Each of your beehives, whether your first or your hundredth, will have its nuances and occasionally send you the proverbial curve ball.

Sometimes these are minor things that you have never seen before and are simply a curiosity. An example might the colony that decides to create comb outside and underneath the hive. It’s rare, but it can happen.

At the other extreme are catastrophic events that could wipe out a hive or even more. Whatever the situation and no matter how dire, there is an opportunity to learn.

Much of what you learn about beekeeping is local. This isn’t simply a statement of geographic location. Even within a single garden, beekeepers can experience quite different things with their bees.

One of the best answers to this quest for knowledge in an ever-changing environment comes in the form of beekeeping clubs and mentors.

How do I understand and interpret what's going on in my hives
It takes knowledge and experience. How can you start with this? Join a club! This will help with many problems, as you leverage the knowledge of the locals.

Beekeeping Clubs

What is a beekeeping club?

With any pastime or hobby, it’s very common for like-minded folks to come together. Beekeeping is no different and there are a large number of clubs throughout the country, many of them very well-established and some decades old. Clubs usually have a specific area in their title, a board of directors and recognize other organizational posts, almost like a small company.

The main objectives of most beekeeping clubs are to encourage and support interest in beekeeping in the area, as well as to provide a channel through which members can help each other. Depending on the type of club, the club may well offer the occasional social event too.

How can you benefit from a beekeeping club?

In short – applied, local knowledge. Much of what you learn as a beekeeper is generic and common across all beekeepers.  That knowledge is very important. But some of the more valuable and essential information is local in nature. Examples include:

  • Understanding of local weather conditions
  • Expectations for the ebb-and-flow of a hive across a typical year
  • Local suppliers of bees
  • Access to locally bred bees
  • Seasonality for local flowers
  • Swarm capture services (to potentially provide a swarm or as a way to register yourself to be alerted to swarms)
  • Zoning and other legal restrictions
  • Regional pest and pesticide issues

These are just some of the benefits associated with a local club. There are also obvious benefits from being around beekeepers with a wide range of experience, sometimes measured decades, in the local area. This can be invaluable and regular meetings can be a fun opportunity to engage with such esteemed beekeeping company.

How can I save money through a beekeeping club?
Many clubs offer the sharing or renting of equipment or tools. This can potentially save a great deal of money.

A final important benefit of beekeeping clubs is the ability to pose for cheesy photos, with the smoker, hive tool and bee suits being mandatory!

Beekeeping club

Where do you find beekeeping clubs?

People often ask us how to find a local club. This is easier than you might imagine, since there are so many around the country.

A good way to start is to search online for a statewide beekeeping club – like this. This example finds clubs in Texas and the very first one listed just happens to be The Texas Beekeepers Association. Browse around that site and you will soon find a list of Local Beekeepers Associations. That’s pretty straightforward and it is just easy for other states.

Mentors

Why have a mentor?

Having a mentor is complimentary to joining a beekeeping club. Indeed, joining a club is an excellent way to find a mentor, though not the only way.

You can think of a mentor as a “personalized, one man/woman beekeeping club”! His or her expertise will be very valuable, but being able to physically view your own hives and ask specific questions can’t be beat. This allows your mentor to consider the situation and make suggestions in an entirely contextual way, specific to your beehives.

Beekeeper and mentor

What to look for in a mentor

Different mentors offer different perspectives. For example, your mentor might be someone with an experience managing a small number of hives. That person will emphasize certain aspects of beekeeping over others. For example, with a small number of hives s/he might have an interest in the aesthetic appeal of the hive, which some address by painting their hives.

Another choice of mentor might have a gift for managing a large number of hives. That mentor is likely to value factors like efficiency and speed.

Both of these mentors add value and you will need to decide, to some extent, which way you would like to take your beekeeping, to help with your choice of mentor.

A good mentor might be interested in the occasional shared project. Club members, of course, might have an interest in this too, but working one-on-one with a mentor who has close up experience of your own hives is great fun!

Where to find a mentor?

The obvious channel is through a beekeeping club. Just make friends and identify someone who seems experienced, who’s company you find enjoyable and who seems eager to help in any way he or she can.

Depending on your area, another way to find a great mentor is to strike up a conversation with a beekeeping neighbor. If you know the neighbor, get alone well and trust his or her judgment you are basically there – just ask if s/he can help you and guide you. If you don’t know the person you should probably start with a simple opening question, just to gauge the level of experience, communication skills and willingness to help.

5 thoughts on “Finding Beekeeping Clubs and Mentors”

  1. Looking,member at church raised bees for 30 yrs and I quiz him but he has gotten in bad health so no hands on.Lots to learn from experienced minds.

  2. I have attended one meeting with our local beekeeping club. The presentation they gave was very informative, but I didn’t feel the welcome mat was rolled out. I will go back at least a couple more times to see if I can break the ice.

  3. I agree. PerfectBee is a great starting place for those looking to take up beekeeping. The course has a breadth and depth not found in any other online course I am aware of. And as stated at the beginning “we would not FOR ONE SECOND suggest it in any way negates the value of a good beekeeping club and/or a mentor. We think it complements these very well.” That is the perfect reality check to which I would like to add one point. I have taught beekeeping classes and have been involved in the Oregon Master Beekeeping program for the last few years. Each year I see a few new beekeepers who have educated themselves online and without any hands on experience have made up their minds there is only one way to keep bees. That’s fine after you have developed your own style through years of experience, but these folks end up spending their first couple years defending one way of beekeeping instead of using their first few seasons learning.

    Word to the wise – after learning all you can in books and on line, keep an open mind to what an experienced beekeeper has to pass along, be that in a class you attend or when working with a mentor. Success will be yours if you do.

  4. Joining a beekeepers club is an excellent way to start networking with more experienced folks. I joined the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association (NCSBA) and my local chapter, the Haywood County Beekeepers Association. I just attended my first meeting two weeks ago at the local chapter and was floored to see nearly 60 beekeepers in attendance including men and women from younger to older. I also subscribed to the American Bee Journal. Learning and networking go hand in hand in my opinion.

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