New Beekeepers Need Mentors & You Can Help

You can mentor locally or via the internet, as new beekeepers are always in need of advice, guidance and traditional beekeeping wisdom.

PHOTO: Kristina Mercedes Urquhart

The hobby of beekeeping is rapidly growing, and with it, a generation of young new beekeepers just learning about it. Many are young homesteaders, locavore urbanites, or millennials hoping to support ailing beekeeping populations and become responsible stewards of the land. With social media and Internet research growing cultural trends, young beekeepers can find support where it suits them best. Whether near home in a county bee club or from an experienced beekeeper halfway around the world, people new to the practice need beekeeping mentors, and they’re looking for them. The hobby—and the beekeepers’ skillset—depends on it.

Two Mentoring Styles

Newcomers need skilled beekeeping mentors to guide them, especially in their first year where the learning curve is steepest. If you’re interested in becoming someone’s beekeeping mentor, there are two main ways: mentoring local beekeepers in your area, in real time, mentoring by virtual means, such as Facebook, Instagram, beekeeping forums or email exchanges.

Although the latter might seem strange, both methods are valid in today’s world. Of course, there’s something to be said for mentoring in person. There’s a lot to learn on the internet, but no matter how many videos one watches, there’s no substitute for hands-on learning. If you choose to mentor someone virtually, pass along this wisdom. In the meantime, let’s start with the traditional ways.

Teach A Class

When looking for mentees, it’s great to start with your local bee club. If you’re already a member, you’re likely to meet new members (and new beekeepers) through the regular club meetings, usually in the spring or fall. If you have the resources and the personality for it, teaching beginner beekeeping classes is a wonderful way to mentor small groups at a time, and also be compensated for your time and experience. Classes might run over the course of several weeks, with each class held one weeknight evening for several hours, for example. This seems to work best with most busy schedules.

Classes held on weekends as an “intensive” are also very popular—a full Saturday and Sunday of information is a great way for beekeeping mentors to immerse budding beekeepers. I’ve attended, assisted and taught classes held through my local bee club, through small homesteading supply stores, and at my own personal apiary in both ways. They’ve all been wonderful experiences.

Mentor An Individual

One of the best ways to guide a novice beekeeper is to work with that person individually. In the beginning, this will mean answering a lot of questions—and I mean a lot! Have a reliable way to be in touch, especially for time-sensitive questions such as “How do I catch this swarm?” You’ll be there as a guiding hand and voice for setup, buying or installing the first nuc or package, first inspections, first honey harvest and all else along the way. You’ll answer questions throughout the year as new issues and challenges come up—and they will!

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Virtual Mentoring

The internet has no shortage of people with opinions. As beekeepers tend to be an opinionated bunch, there are more than enough perspectives on how something should be done. With that said, it’s possible to strike up a rapport with a beekeeper a distance away and still be able to help that person significantly. You can join a beekeeping group on Facebook, and participate in discussions (respectfully, of course). Always ask the administrators of the group for help if needed. You can join Instagram and post photos and videos of your own beekeeping experience, and be sure to use hashtags that help others find your entries. There are also many beekeeping forums online that are good for beekeeping mentors, and as you connect with people, you might find that personal email or phone calls are helpful in communicating your experience and expertise. Truly, there are numerous ways to interact with the worldwide beekeeping community through these modern resources.

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