Here’s the thing, y’all: keeping bees alive ain’t easy, and as new beekeepers we just don’t know what we don’t know until we find out later that we didn’t know it.
That means we’re going to fail. That means dead-outs for what seems no apparent reason, hive diseases, swarming colonies and parent colonies going feral. Beekeeping just ain’t for wimps!
Here’s the sad phone call I get all too often: “Charlie, we’ve been beekeeping for three years and the hives just keep dying and now we have just one left and it is so mean we can’t go into our backyard. We’ve been to conferences and watched tons of YouTube and we just can’t make it work. We quit!”
My advice is the same relentless chant as this inspiring little kid: “Don’t stop! Don’t give up!”
It helps to start with a longterm goal for your beekeeping. Do you want just a few backyard hives? Do you need to build to a medium-sized apiary for an Ag valuation plan? Are you looking to go big and earn money with some aspect of bees and beekeeping? Or are you just like me and want “MORE BEES”?
OK, with that goal in mind and maybe an annual budget just keep slogging no matter what happens.
Lose hives? Buy more.
Equipment full of wax moth? Throw it in the freezer to kill the larvae and use again next year.
Mean bees? Terminate that queen, split the hive, and get yourself a known genetic mama.
New queen doesn’t take? Try another one.
Laying worker? Shake them out and start over.
Build on any small successes and repeat what’s working. And focus on the strong hives, not the weak ones. Sure, you can troubleshoot a weak hive, but your longterm success is in the colonies that are crushing it, because they’ll be the source of your spring splits and eventually a “sustainable apiary” where you no longer have to buy nucs and packages (maybe just queens).
It’s incredibly helpful to have a mentor or connect with beekeepers in a club where you can learn from folks who are a few years ahead, have made all the right mistakes, and are having some success keeping bees alive.
Oh, and make sure those people are cool. I’ve made some incredible friends in beekeeping and, like all things in life, find that it’s not what you do it’s who you do it with.
And don’t stop! Don’t give up!