Even after you have been beekeeping for quite a few years, it is a good idea to set goals, or look for ways to improve your beekeeping. Here are my “Beekeeping Resolutions” for the New Year. These include some goals for myself that might be important to other beekeepers as well!
When I first started beekeeping, I only had two hives, and I thought I could pretty much remember what was going on in each hive. Once I got up to four hives, I had to start writing things down. I also realized that it was getting harder to keep track of what happened over the years. Now that I have 16 hives, good record keeping has taken on a new importance. First of all, information about the queens is vital. By keeping good records, I know at a glance how old the queen is, where she came from, how prolific she has been, etc. This information can help me determine if and when she may need to be replaced, and where I want to obtain queens from in the future. Secondly, I record information about the health of the hive. I keep track of Varrora levels, other signs of disease or pests, what treatments are used, and how well they worked. I also keep track of the general temperament and robustness of the hive. How quickly they built up in the spring, the population size of the colony, and the gentleness or aggressiveness of the hives are all things I take note of. Again, this can give clues as to the health of the hive, and any issues that should be addressed. We also keep track of how much honey was produced by each hive. All of this information helps me remember what happened in each hive, and helps me make better decisions in the future.
There are many ways to keep records. A simple composition notebook works for some people, and there is an online program called “Hive Tracks” that may appeal to those looking to go more high tech. After some experimenting, I have found that what works best for me is to take a spiral notebook with me each time I visit the beeyard. Using shorthand that probably only I can understand, I quickly make note of any information I want to make sure I remember. Once I am back inside with a glass of ice tea or lemonade, I write out my notes in a 3 ring binder. I have dividers in it, one for each hive. I can add dividers as I add more hives, and add as many sheets of paper as I need. If I lose a hive, I staple the sheets together, and move it to a section for deceased hives. Again, the method itself isn’t as important as a commitment to keep those accurate records for future use!
Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the beeyard and realizing that you don’t have the equipment you need on hand. Some examples; realizing that a hive is ready for another super, only to discover that you do not have enough frames for the super, wanting to remove supers from several hives, and not having enough escape boards, or getting a call about a swarm, and not having extra hive components to house them in. One of my resolutions is to keep an accurate inventory of equipment, and to replace or restock it before I really need it!
No matter how long you have been beekeeping, there is always more to learn. New research, new information, and new challenges are always appearing. My third resolution is to never stop learning. There are so many ways to keep your knowledge current. Attending Bee club meetings, seminars, and workshops are a great way to learn, and you also have a chance talk to other beekeepers. Keeping current with beekeeping magazines and literature can be done from the comfort of your home, as well as checking out online websites, blogs, and chatrooms or forums. Whatever appeals to you, try to stay up to date with what is going on in the world of beekeeping.
This is a hard one for me. If I have a hive that is not doing well, I tend to want to give it more time, give it another chance, or wait a little longer — long past when I should cut my losses. Combining a weak hive with a stronger one, replacing a queen who is not performing, and other tough calls will not get any easier with time, and the hive usually declines even more instead of improving. My fourth resolution is to be more proactive in taking action when it is needed.
Many beekeepers have given me advice and helped me out as I have learned about beekeeping. My final beekeeping resolution is to “Pay it Forward”. There are many ways that beekeepers can help each other and the public. Many clubs have mentoring programs where experienced beekeepers can help out a beekeeper who is just getting started. Maybe you just know someone who would like to learn more about beekeeping or needs help setting up a hive. Are there groups or schools in your area who would like to have a beekeeper come speak with them? Is your bee club in need of volunteers to help with projects? There are many ways to get involved, help others, and spread the word about bees and beekeeping.
Whatever your beekeeping goals and resolutions, we at Bees of the Woods Apiary hope that you and your bees have a happy, productive and healthy New Year!
Jennifer Ford owns and operates Bees of the Woods Apiary with her husband Keith. You can visit them at Bees of the Woods Apiary & Mallard Pond Maple.
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