Beekeepers understandably want specifics/exacts/explicit information as opposed to general idea on what their colony of bees is doing, needing, going on, mite treatments, disease, supering, management practices, etc. Beekeepers, in general, (NEED) to be a whole lot less cavalier about dispensing knowledge. I wish beekeepers were more accountable for any input given to unsuspecting novices. It is difficult to correct inaccurate information given to beekeepers and novices alike without appearing to be a know-it-all or condescending – anyone can make a mistake. Those dispensing advice should always ask more questions than what information is being offered by the beekeeper needing help. Necessary details are often overlooked by the one asking for help for obvious reasons like: queen cell, swarm, overwintered colony, one deep, mites, no honey, and so on and on. We also hear from beekeepers frustrated about the need for a mentor’s help and not being able to find it. The flip side you hear from the mentors that do exist about the beekeeper calling and asking for help, just to arrive to find that what was needed was someone to take the honey off and extract it.
At the outset there needs to be an understanding between the two from the mentor’s point of view about how he or she is willing to help and do.
- I will help as long as I feel you are committed to this project.
- I will not be used as your personal laborer.
- I can help once a week/month M/T/W/TH at 7 P.M. only – be specific.
- I can be contacted phone/e-mail/ text etc. only.
This is what I expect of you as the novice:
- Observe protocols that we have agreed upon.
- You cannot come to my residents unless invited.
- Be punctual.
- If you want my help, I expect you to listen to my instructions and not every beekeeper you talk to.
- I expect you to be courteous and mannerly and you should expect the same of me.
- If there are any costs incurred I expect you to pay for them or at least offer to do so.
I am sure there are other considerations and any agreement can be customized to fit the need. It is unrealistic to expect anyone to know or understand the specifics of your colonies via a phone conversation or even after a one time look, sometime, time has to lapse in order to properly evaluate colony conditions. Keep in mind many problems in beekeeping can be solved with patience instead of money.
All organizations (NEED) to have a mentoring program with graduated degrees of help offered, for example a first year beekeeper will most likely need less in-depth help than a five year beekeeper. The program can be customized paring certain mentors with certain beekeepers, organizations should (oversee) and qualify a mentor, if the mentor is going to represent the organization. The club can offer a program and classes to potential mentors with the understanding, mentors answer to the organization. Lack of oversight involving anyone representing the organization can cause all sorts of problems to a group of people just wanting to be helpful. This is just a (needed) idea I know that finding volunteers is very difficult but attempts should be made for the betterment of the bee club and it’s long-term success. Beekeeping organizations are at the heart, a teaching facility anyway, so a mentoring program is a natural fit.
Having a mentor is not the same as having a good mentor. Many beekeepers like to think of themselves as having the capabilities to teach and consult. Having the knowledge is different than having the ability to apply it at the proper time and circumstances. Having a good mentor is a good investment of time and money because a good mentor will not suggest the purchase of unnecessary equipment/merchandise or queens and save the beekeeper valuable time and money. Most beekeepers become a mentor by default, no one else will do it or they just want to help. Good intentions should not be considered criteria for help when harm may be done. There are reasons good strong mentoring programs do not exist anywhere. I think it comes down to inconvenience, time and money, and these are issues that need to be addressed by those it affects the most – clubs and organizations. With the popularity of beekeeping once again and with so many new to beekeeping the need is real.
How does a novice go about finding a suitable tutor in an organization where they themselves are the newbie or better yet, how do I find needed help when I do not live in an area where an organization exists, or I cannot make it to meetings? Admitted this can be difficult, however, it can be done.
- Call your local organization or surrounding counties if your county does not have a beekeeping club and ask for help.
- Ask your county beekeeping inspector for direct assistance or information about help from elsewhere.
- Call The State Beekeeper’s Association.
- Call a local beekeeping supply company.
- Call your county agriculture office.
- Look online for local beekeepers and information in general.
Most organizations teach a beginner class and dispense with great general information and after that, hope the novice survives for another day. It’s getting down into the weeds – months after the classes – that stump that would be long-term member, president, treasurer or future Beekeeping Hall-of-Famer.
Be persistent, hang in there, help is on the way.