What to expect as a beekeeper
Did you buy your hives? Maybe you've joined a club, found a mentor or are just beginning your journey. Either way, there's one big question everyone wants to know... What can I expect by jumping into beekeeping? Well.... here goes...
You're going to get stung (a lot)
Ok, I guess it goes without saying but it's true. Be prepared to get welcomed into the club pretty early. Now, I know what you're thinking, "I'll get a suit! That will keep em out!" While you're not wrong, you're not entirely right.
Most suits are pretty good. They're thick enough to keep out the sharp pointed end you may be trying to avoid. Some on the other hand, are not. I can specifically recall working with some more wild bees (not mine, but I was helping someone) and coming home with roughly 30 stings. I was wearing a full suit with shirt and jeans under. At that time, I was about 2 years into beekeeping, and it wasn't like it was my first time, but it wasn't exactly a party either.
Be prepared to get it. You'll get used to it. You'll also learn signs and signals of a hive as it becomes upset or defensive while you are inspecting. As you become more experienced, you'll learn ways to avoid mistakes that trigger a defensive reaction from the hive as well.
You're going to lose some hives
It is unfortunate to lose some, but you aren't an expert yet. (Ps: They lose them too) If you have other farm animals, there are chances you will lose them to disease/sickness, predators, etc. It's much the same but the signs are different.
A cow may limp on an injury. Diagnosis? Something hurts. It's not the same with bees. You really need to be looking at the brood and development of your hive to ensure it is as strong as it should be. You see the feeder in your barn is empty? Fill it. For bees, it's more watching what they are bringing in, and recognizing when they've slowed bringing it in and knowing it is time to feed them.
Just don't be hard on yourself. You may do everything right and end up with a dead hive because of a moisture issue in the hive over winter. It's a learning experience. It's an expensive one but a learning one, nonetheless. Here's when having a mentor or joining a group helps. Did you lose 50%? Check with your local group. If they did, there is a good chance it was an issue that wasn't in your control. Want to confirm? Ask a member/mentor to open up the hive with you and do an inspection. There are key things that can give more insight into just what caused the death of the hive.
You won't get any honey for awhile
If you're in southern NB like us, it's likely you got, or are getting your first nucs in June of any year. At this point, it is all about winter prep. (Crazy right?) You won't get any honey out of them until the following year, if they survive. If you've read a previous post 'What would I do different?' you know, it's not cheap to get into bees. If you're in it to save money on honey, this isn't for you. On the other hand, if you have a genuine interest in bees, how they work, and how they can complement your other homesteading goals, they are so rewarding! If all you're interested in is taking from them, this isn't a hobby for you.
Throw out the books... the bees don't use them
This may sound harsh, and I suppose you don't have to throw them out. There is a good amount of knowledge that you can read up on before making the investment but maybe set them on the shelf in the back room after you've read them. The bees didn't get a copy, and if they did, I can tell you it wasn't the one for beekeeping in your area.
I have learned to apply the methods I've studied in books or by observing mentors in my area. Don't expect to follow your hive page by page with one in a textbook. If they aren't preforming in the same manner, it can be because of thousands of variables. Focus on the health of the hive and find a local beekeeper who can be your mentor.
If you're thinking about making the jump into the hobby, you won't regret it if you're in it for the right reasons. If you have the patience, ability, and resources, bees are a rewarding addition to any home. We do recommend reaching out to someone experienced (as you can tell by most of our posts here) and if you have any questions about the hobby, please send us a message or reply to this post. We will do our best to help you find your answer.