Unlike their social charges, some beekeepers are solitary creatures. Some of us prefer to care for our bees in the peace and seclusion of our own apiaries, quietly working with some of the most fascinating creatures on earth (we may be a bit biased, too). But there are many reasons to branch out and extend your social circle to include other beekeepers, and joining a local bee club is an excellent way to do it, as you’ll reap some major benefits.
1. You Can Share Information
Even if we want to live in our own little beekeeping bubble, our bees do not. They’re subject to the world around them in a very real way. Joining and attending bee club meetings can give you a head’s up on what other beekeepers are experiencing across your city or county in the way of pests, weather, and unforeseen obstacles. Well-informed bee clubs also share the latest in honeybee research in regards to losses around the world, how to battle varroa destructor mites, how pesticides influence and affect our bees and our beekeeping practices, and much more.
2. You Can Share Resources
Did you know you can rent large equipment, such as costly honey extractors, from a beekeeping club for a fraction of the cost as buying your own? Many bee clubs include all of the accessories, too, such as harvesting knives and forks, food-grade buckets, strainers and collecting bins. Jars or containers for your honey are usually not included, though.
3. You Will Find Lively Debates
Although the most introverted of us may need to fight the urge to go running for the hills, beekeepers on the whole are usually a well-informed and opinionated bunch. In my county’s beekeeping club, we compare and contrast beekeeping methods, and lightheartedly try to sway others with whom we know we disagree. It’s done with the utmost respect and true open-mindedness. At the end of the day, we’re all beekeepers together working towards the same goals; if others are successful beekeepers, we have all won!
4. You’ll Learn Alternative Management Styles
Whether you’re a tried-and-true conventional beekeeper, or a stoutly devoted natural beekeeper, it always helps to keep a balance of management styles in perspective. This starts with hearing how others tackle the same issues that you do. Arrive to a bee club meeting with an open mind, and don’t be afraid to speak up. So much good comes from respectfully sharing our perspectives and what’s worked for us. You never know—you may help a new beekeeper who is struggling, or an old-timer may just have the piece of advice to give you an “ah-ha!” moment.
5. You’ll Find a Mentor/Mentee
Bee clubs are one of the best places for new beekeepers to find mentors. On the other hand, if you’ve been at it a while, and you’re ready to take on a brand new “beek,” join a bee club and make your offer known. New beekeepers are often immeasurably grateful to have the steady, kind guidance of a seasoned beekeeper.
Quite possibly the most intangible, yet most important, aspect of joining a bee club are the relationships you will forge and the friendships you will develop that may last a lifetime. As we are social creatures—just like our bees—we need each other to be our best selves and be most successful and prosperous. A bee club may just be a great place to do that.