The winter is a quiet time for beekeepers. The hives are secured and safe, and there’s little to do but wait out the cold. There are lovely activities to do while waitingâ€”making soaps, lotions, balms, mead and other wonderful natural items from the products of the hiveâ€”but one of the most rewarding of them is guiding the next generation of beekeepers on their first foray into the hobby.
Many beekeeping clubs host winter workshops. The year before we got our first hives, we attended a six-week evening class on beginning beekeeping skills, taught by the elder beekeepers and hosted by our local county extension service. We were among many brand new beekeepers, but attending were also second- or third-year beekeepers, looking to sharpen their skills and ask questions of the community. Each Tuesday evening, we bundled up, braved the cold, brought snacks and geeked out on all things beekeeping. It was a grand time, and I treasure the connections we made there.
As a more experienced beekeeper, you have an opportunity to share the wisdom you and your colleagues have gained. Often, this is material that can’t be read in books: the knowledge of your unique region, its flowering plants and how the honeybees thrive within that location. The most helpful guides for new beekeepers are the generations that came before. You are there to teach how each season presents its challenges, the secrets of the timing of blooms and nectar flows, and how to support your bees best in their time of need.
If you’re ready, here are a few ways to get started as a beekeeping mentor:
1. Use Social Media
Create a Facebook or Instagram page about your apiary and beekeeping practices. Post photos, share your experience and invite your community to follow you.
2. Locate & Join Clubs
Connect with your county extension office and join beekeeping clubs. Volunteer your time, attend meetings and offer to answer questions for beginners.
3. Start A Newsletter
Create a monthly newsletter, sharing Dos and Don’ts for the month, tips, tricks and reminders and photos if you have them. These newsletters can be printed and mailed, or emailed the members of bee clubs.
Offer to teach classes. During my beginning beekeeper course, we had one main instructor and several guest speakers, many of them highly experienced beekeepers in our community. Their input was invaluable, and jovial disagreements between beekeeping techniques gave us “newbees” a broad range of experience to draw from.
The hands-on hive maintenance will have to wait until spring, but winter beekeeping guidance can take many forms. By simply talking with new beekeepers, or swapping tips with experienced “beeks,” the winter can be a wealth of information at a time when minds are still busy but hands are still.