As I anxiously wait for my first bees to arrive, I’m consuming as many beekeeping resources as possible; books, videos, web sites, beekeeping association meetings, etc. I’m beefing up my knowledge so that when the nectar’s flowing and my bees take flight, I’m ready for whatever is thrown at me.
At the very beginning, before I knew anything about keeping bees, I envisioned having dozens of jars of honey and perhaps enough beeswax to make some lip balm or something. More recently, my thoughts have shifted slightly and I have some new goals for my first year as a beekeeper:
- First and foremost, I would like to have the healthiest, strongest colony possible in the most reasonably natural way possible. What exactly does that mean? There are a number of pests and diseases that threaten honeybee colonies—not only in Ontario, but across the globe. There are several ways to treat these pests and diseases including harsh pesticides, organic treatments and less invasive, more natural interventions. If/when an ailment affects my colony, my first defence will be a natural solution, and I will only resort to harsh chemicals if it’s absolutely necessary.
- I will get stung. I know that all beekeepers will be stung by a honeybee (“tagged” or “hit” in beekeeping lingo) at one time or another. I will be honest—I am not looking forward to the first time I’m stung! I’m not as afraid of the pain of the sting as I am my reaction to that pain. My greatest fear is that I will drop a frame of comb and kill my queen in the process. That would suck.
- I plan on keeping an unlimited brood nest. This is a fancy term for “not using a queen excluder” and means that my queen will be free to go where she pleases within the hive. Will this be a problem? Likely not. Most beekeepers use a queen excluder to keep the queen from laying eggs in their honey supers. However, the queen naturally stays near the bottom of the hive, and rarely makes it into the topmost supers. The brood nest is typically shaped like a 3D sphere within the hive with honey stored on the outside edges and top. Having an unlimited brood nest mimics nature and alleviates a bit of stress on the hive as everyone is free to move wherever they want.
- I will try to avoid using sugar syrup supplementation as much as possible. Most beekeepers that I have encountered rely on feeding their honeybees sugar as a way of supplementing the bee’s food (honey) over the winter and during dearths. I see a couple problems with this: First, honey is extremely complex and perfect for feeding bees. Honey has perfect moisture content and perfect acidity so that it never spoils. Secondly, honeybees have lived on this planet for roughly 100 million years. They know what they’re doing without our intervention. They have evolved to produce their own food for consumption during the winter. There is absolutely no chance that refined sugar boiled in tap water is better than what evolution has designed. I realize that this means I will have to leave more honey for my bees to overwinter, but that’s fine with me.
- Lastly, I hope to inspire new beekeepers. I believe that most people would be quite amazed at the world of the apis mellifera and part of the reason I started this blog was to inspire other people to take up beekeeping. If you’re new to beekeeping, I hope that you subscribe to my blog and learn a thing or two from me along the way.
What are your goals for the year? Are you a new beekeeper, just starting out like me or are you a seasoned pro? I’d love to hear your feedback on my goals in the comments below.