1. Enjoy a Taster Day
I was seven weeks into my ten week beekeeping course when my tutor said that some people will go through these fantastically informative courses, open up a beehive for the first time and realize they cannot stand bees.
For that reason I would recommend these one day courses which involve a little bit of theory and generally involve seeing a working beehive. You will get to put on the rather attractive looking beesuit, see a smoker at work and probably get to handle some bees. This way you can work out if you actually enjoy this hobby before embarking on a full blown training course. A great way to build up some enthusiasm
You can find out about Taster Days online at a local State Beekeeping Organisation or on the website of the Beekeeping magazine Beeculture (www.beeculture.com). There are similar worldwide sites should you be interested.
2. Join a Local Beekeeping Association
If you have enjoyed the Taster Day it will be very worthwhile joining your local beekeeping association. Indeed you may have found that the Taster Day was run by them in the first place. For a nominal fee you will find some fantastic advantages in doing this. Firstly there will very likely be other beginners joining but also associations generally have their own apiary where they will hold weekly meetings and social events.
You will also find that as part of your membership insurance will be provided. Yes, sadly beekeepers do have to insure themselves just in case their bees sting someone but it does also protect you against some of the losses you may have incurred should you bees die because of certain diseases like American Foul Brood.
You can find your local association at www.beesource.com or www.beemaster.com - both should help out.
3. Attend a Training Course
Off the back of joining an association they will probably mention longer courses that they run and I wholeheartedly recommend these. Mine was a 10 week course and I came out with a head filled with the most amazing information which serves me to this day. It is also a great way to meet other beginner beekeepers and you will find that you form a strong group all learning together.
Some courses are run in the Autumn or Winter and are generally theory courses while some are run in the Spring which combine both theory and practical. I have to say that I am personally pleased that I was on a pure theory course myself. The information is mind boggling and I needed time to digest it all.
4. Read Lots of Beekeeping Books and Magazines
You will find yourself intrigued by these fantastic little insects off the back of a training course and like me, will probably want to immerse yourself in all the books imaginable.
There are plenty of books out there which are great education guides to starting out beekeeping but some can seem rather bland and outdated despite beinginformative. However most people believe David Wootton’s Novice Guide is one of the better ones which is fantastically visual as well. – considering he is a professional photographer I am not surprised.
Until a few years ago there weren’t really any experience led books out there written in the first person but that is why I wrote my book detailing my first year of becoming a beekeeper. From A to Bee catalogues all of my ups and downs, good bits and bad bits and whether I make any honey in that first year. I hope you enjoy it.
You can buy mine and David’s books as a package as well - 10 percent of all proceeds go to two beekeeping charities that support sustainable beekeepign in Africa – a very worthy cause.
The cost of both together (including post and packing is $45 and just e-mail me if you would like a copy and I can accept payment by Paypal. If you want to know more about both books you can find out more through my site - www.surreybeekeeper.co.uk.
5. Find a Mentor
I will never forget my mentors during my first year. Firstly there was Maggie and Tom who helped me each week at the association but then there were also my reams of online mentors (the internet is a great resource for beekeepers with some very active forums and Facebook groups – www.facebook.com/beginnerbeekeepers is one).
There was one man though who had been reading my blog and just started e-mailing me to help out. He was also at my association and became invaluable that first year in every aspect of what I was doing. He was always on hand to offer advice and always answered my calls when I was panicking that I had done something wrong.
Having a mentor will naturally evolve if you join an association and generally everyone is keen to help because they will remember what those first few years are like, learning the ropes
6. Have Fun
There is a lot to learn but it is the most fulfilling hobby I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in. You will gain a new appreciation for nature, your local area, bees, your garden and even down to the food that is on your plate.
When you get your first hive I hope you enjoy the experience of taking a glass of wine out of an evening, sitting a safe distance away from the hive and just watch as your girls go about their business. It really is the most relaxing and awe inspiring site which I urge everyone to at least try.