It started out innocently enough. You let a local beekeeper install a couple of hives in the corner of your yard. One day, you picked up a couple of bee-friendly plants at the local nursery … just for fun. After all, the garden needed a little sprucing up. The next thing you know, you’re redesigning that corner of your yard to be fully bee-centric, including a water feature created especially as a drinking place for bees, and the meaning of the words “smoker,” “frame,” “drone” and “super” is completely different they what used to.
This is how it begins.
You are on the path to becoming a full-on bee geek. That’s right: A Beek. How can you tell for sure? Well …
- You’re starting to think that oversized, heavy white clothing is pretty sexy, and the Mann Lake catalog has replaced that novel you were reading. Who cares about some dumb love story when there is a sale on bottom boards on page 33?
- For your birthday, you get 15 different bee-shaped jewelry items, a T-shirt that says “I <3 bees,” and four coffee cups that declare you to be a queen bee, even though you already own 17 other coffee cups with bees on them or sayings like "I’m the queen bee around here” and a teapot shaped like a skep.
- You think of powdered sugar primarily as a treatment for Varroa mites instead of as a delicious topping for bundt cake.
- You fully understand the pros and cons of Langstroth, top bar and Warré hives, but you have trouble telling Jennifer Anniston and Gwyneth Paltrow apart.
- Since you learned that bassist Flea is now a beekeeper, you have become a rabid Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Morgan Freeman is a beekeeper too, but everyone knows that.
- Thinking that everyone knows Morgan Freeman is a beekeeper.
- You are no longer speaking to your neighbor following a heated dispute over the Flow Hive.
- You mistake the glazed look on your friends’ faces for fascination as you talk about neonicotinoid insecticides. Also, the word “glazed” reminds you of honey.
- If you find a lost bee in the house in the middle of the night, you carry it back out to the hive in your bare feet, talking gently to it the entire time.
- You worry about nucs more than nukes.
- You talk so much about whether to buy Caucasians, Italians or Russians that the old lady across the street thinks you are into human trafficking. You try to explain these are just bee varieties, but she has turned off her hearing aid.
- You’ve gone from one of those people who refers to all flying insects with stingers as “bees” to someone who can tell a paper wasp from a yellow jacket from a bee in full flight.
So there you have it. You no longer tiptoe gingerly around the hives, and you have filled your entire yard with lavender, catmint, bee balm, borage, snapdragons and lemon balm. Beekeeping manuals and catalogs cover your coffee table, and you spend hours watching your hives instead of the television, trying to decipher the mystery of the waggle tail dance.
This, of course, is just the beginning. If you don’t stop now, you’ll be knee deep in bee paraphernalia and will speak only in complex beekeeping jargon in no time.
Embracing Your Inner Beek
All joking aside, beekeeping is a fascinating and challenging hobby, requiring careful education and preparation and diligent hive management. Ill-managed hives can do more harm than good. It’s a great idea to start out in partnership with an experienced beekeeper, join your local beekeeping organization, and spend a good long time familiarizing yourself with the intricacies involved in maintaining a healthy and happy bee population before investing in the necessary equipment (and bees!)
Before you attempt your first hive, make sure you fully understand the commitment and the pros and cons. Most beekeeping organizations offer classes or information sessions that can be extremely helpful in deciding if you want to stick to “hosting” a hive managed by an expert, or start down the road toward becoming one yourself. If you decide to set up your own hives, joining your local organization can also give you access to expensive extracting equipment, equipment discounts, free workshops, newsletters and a community of experts who are only too willing to talk bees until the wee hours. You’ll learn what equipment you really need, the best places to get it, how to handle hive problems, and best of all, you’ll be surrounded by your fellow Beeks—and no one’s eyes will glaze over if you strike up a conversation about neonicotinoid insecticides.