Trepidations of a Beekeeper

IMG_4132Backyard beekeeping is hard – but not for the reasons you might think. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve in mastering the lingo, figuring out which hive type is right for you, or doing your first package install. But the really hard part is doing what you know is right for the bees, versus what makes you feel good.

Case in point: As the winter draws to a close the bees are starting to run low on honey stores. You’ve grown fond of the little fellers and your instinct is to help them out by feeding them some sugar. But is that really the best thing for the bees? I don’t think so. It encourages them to build up their numbers too quickly, so if you stop feeding the colony it will crash even harder. Compared to honey, sugar is nutritionally deficient and a breeding ground for viruses. Finally, you are artificially propping up a mal-adjusted colony, when you should really be selecting for bees that can survive in this area without any outside help.

I hear this little inner voice throughout the year. In spring it tempts you to feed; in summer it urges you to inspect your hive every day to see that they’re alright; in fall it wants you to insulate the hive to keep it warm. Unfortunately, your inner beekeeper is not a very good one – don’t listen. Instead, figure out what your goals are, decide on your beekeeping strategy – whether that’s conventional, biological, or hands off – and stick to it. You’ll be happier in the long run.

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