The summer dearth is upon us, and there is not much to do in the hives except to keep feeding the bees syrup. Doug did a walk away split a few weeks ago, and I will write about that once we know how the story ends. I started visiting county fairs to see honey entries, and you can expect a post on that in a few weeks. While the beekeeping activities are in a bit of a lull, I took the opportunity to reflect upon the past 6 months when we immersed ourselves in beekeeping. The bees are wonderful and fascinating, but I discovered that beekeepers are just as wonderful and fascinating! Here is what my experience has been over the last 6 months:
- Beekeepers are very accepting of new beekeepers. – Back in February I attended a one day course offered by the local beekeepers’ association. About 100 people attended. The organizer asked for a show of hands of people who were about to start their first hive. Roughly two thirds of the people raised their hands. The other third spontaneously broke into heart felt applause. They were that excited that people wanted to start keeping bees! Throughout the day the speakers patiently answered question after question. In subsequent meetings of the local association, we found everyone to be supportive and extremely helpful. My husband started corresponding via Facebook with a beekeeper in another part of the state. That beekeeper, who manages a large number of hives, took time from his busy schedule to answer questions in great detail and to offer advice nearly in real time. He was a big help as we navigated our queenless hive situation. (See previous post for that story.) We had never met him before. He just wanted to help a new beekeeper be successful.
- Beekeepers are inclusive. – We have encountered beekeepers of all ages. Men and women seem to be drawn to the hobby in equal numbers. Some people work their hives solo. Others work as a husband and wife team, and others keep bees with their children. Beekeeping cuts across racial lines. Beekeepers come from rural America, the suburbs, and the cities. Beekeeping is popular around the world, and I happily read blogs to see what beekeepers are doing in other countries. Beekeeping appeals to homesteaders and preppers as well as to professors and executives. You will need a modest amount of disposable income to begin beekeeping, so this is a barrier to some. With that said, you don’t need that much money and you can actually earn money over time, which makes beekeeping an affordable hobby that is accessible to many. At a meeting of your bee club, you will find hipsters and hippies. Some folks are well dressed and some prefer more of a hobo ensemble. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is friendly. Everyone is helpful.
- Beekeepers have good online manners. – I belong to a few neighborhood online groups so I can keep up with what is going on in my home town. Honestly, these groups are making me lose my faith in humanity. People argue and fight over minor things such as which restaurant has the slowest service and which kids are shooting off fireworks past July 4. If someone posts a genuine question seeking help from their neighbors, others criticize the person’s grammar. One comes to expect internet trolls when reading national news stories. One doesn’t really expect internet trolls to lash out at the people that live within walking distance! Beekeepers don’t do this, at least not in the online groups we found. Nobody criticizes another person’s question. Nobody acts as the grammar police pointing out your typos. Nobody uses profanity. Nobody is sarcastic. Everybody is happy to see pictures of the honey you harvested. People are constantly posting articles and tips to help you manage your hives.
- Beekeepers like to help their communities. – Beekeepers like to talk about bees. Volunteers from our local club go to schools, scout meetings, parks and other events to educate the community about bees. Nobody is paid to do this. They want to help the community and raise awareness about the importance of bees. Doug and I are helping out with our first outreach event next week, and I am excited!
- Beekeepers are on a mission to save the planet. – By now most people are aware that bees are in real trouble. Colony collapse, monoculture, and invasive pests have all put tremendous pressure on bee populations. Approximately one third of all the food we consume requires pollination by bees! I’m not trying to be melodramatic when I say that without bees, people will be faced with food shortages or at least a more limited diet. Most beekeepers have a genuine desire to increase the bee population. Honey is great, but for many beekeepers honey is not the primary goal.
What I don’t know is if beekeeping draws these qualities out of people or are people with these qualities drawn to beekeeping? Wouldn’t it be great if we could foster these qualities in our politicians? Regardless of your political views, I think everyone can agree that the political discourse in Washington D.C. is at a low point. Wouldn’t it be great if we had politicians that are helpful, inclusive, have good online manners, focus on their communities and are on a mission to save the planet? We need to either elect more beekeepers or start getting the current crop of politicians around some beehives. I know what you may be thinking. The White House already has a beehive that was put in place when Mr. & Mrs. Obama lived there, and the tone in Washington got worse not better. Let’s get real. It’s going to take more than a single hive to change the tone in Washington. In my vision of the future, beehives stretch all along Pennsylvania Avenue and wind their way up to the US Capitol Building. What have we got to lose? Until then……When I am feeling depressed about the current state of affairs, I will seek refuge among the beekeepers.
Look for posts in the weeks ahead about county fairs, splits, smokers, and hive beetles.