Last year I wrote an article on the ten most common mistakes I see new beekeepers make. The continued popularity of this article and the high volume of mistakes I see beekeepers make has prompted me to write a sequel! So, here are five more beekeeping mistakes I hope to help you avoid.
1. Poor Record Keeping
Not taking notes or recording hive inspections is a mistake breeds more mistakes. How can you improve your beekeeping practices if you are not keeping any records of what works and what doesn’t? This is why taking notes is one of the most important habits a new beekeeper can form. Every time you do a hive inspection, you should take notes on what you see. Not only does this practice help reinforce what you already know, but it will help you to learn new things down the road. So, it isn’t just about figuring out when you last saw larvae in your colony. It’s about evaluating the larger patterns. When you take consistent notes, you will have a hive history to reflect on that will allow you to see the long term benefits or consequences of your beekeeping techniques. Are you having more success with one breed of queen over another? Do your bees overwinter better in a certain hive style? These are the kinds of questions thorough note taking can answer. There are many different ways to record the information you see during inspections. Some prefer digital platforms like Hive Tracks, others like to take notes by hand and some use shorthand codes to write on their actual hive boxes. It can be especially helpful for new beekeepers to take notes on a template because the template can act as a guide during a hive inspection when you are not sure what you should be looking for. I created a hive inspection notebook just for this reason, featured below and available in my shop (click here).
2. Inspecting Too Often
Many new beekeepers are nervous and worry over their new bees. They are also excited and eager to visit with their bees and monitor their behavior. While these qualities can evolve into good beekeeping practices, it is important to learn restraint when it comes to disturbing your bees. You should not open your hive more often than once every two weeks. Inspections are stressful for bees and they disturb the carefully controlled atmospheric conditions within the hive. However, you should do regular inspections every 2-4 weeks to monitor your colonies health and progress. Some hives come with windows that allow you to observe your bees without opening the hive. If you are the kind of person who will be tempted to check too often, you might want to see about getting a hive with a window.
Make sure you are thinking ahead and plan out what you need. Don’t get your bees before you get your bee suit, for example. Make sure you have all the tools and equipment needed to care for your bees and remember that their need are ongoing. I often encounter new beekeepers who do the work of preparing one hive body to house their bees, but they don’t think to build and paint their supers. When there is a nectar flow, bees can build comb at a surprising pace. A beekeeper should always have extra supers in their garage ready to go in case their bees need them.
4. Rough Handling
Bees are animals and should be treated with care, but I often see beekeepers mishandle them. A beekeeper should move slowly and calmly when working the bees. There is no reason to bang things around and smash bees with carelessness. Rough handling will upset the bees and cause them to be defensive. Every time a bee is smashed she releases a pheromone that will cause the other bees to become more defensive. Take your time and be gentle with your bees.
5. Spending Too Much Money
Some people get carried away with the excitement of a new hobby and run out to buy all the finest quality items they can find. While it is nice to have beautiful things, it also add an extra pressure that can take away from the enjoyment of beekeeping. Many new beekeepers lose their first hive. It is even more disappointing to fail when you spent a ton of money on your venture. Not many people are able to make money keeping bees. You should not expect to recoup your costs with honey sales. My advice is to start small. You may find that you don’t even like being a beekeeper. It isn’t for everyone. So, buy the bare minimum to start. Once you are having success, you can upgrade your equipment and make some fun purchases.
No matter what mistakes you make, just remember its all part of the learning process. Try not to beat yourself up too much. Learn from your errors and keep going. Honey bees have a way of humbling beekeepers no matter how experienced they are.