The Lancaster County Beekeepers Society does not have an official one-on-one mentorship program within the club. However, the club maintains hives and nuts at the Penn State Research and Extension Farm on Auction Road in Manheim, PA. During the spring, summer, and fall, weather permitting, we meet at the farm to hive checks. This presents an opportunity to open and inspect the hives. It is the best way to learn and the best time to ask questions. Bring your veil to get up close and personal.
During those hive checks, we pass around frames, point out eggs and larvae, discuss general health of the hive, point out noteworthy and interesting tidbits found or observed, and of course try to find the queen. You can hold the frame or observe over someone’s shoulder, whatever your comfort level. We also perform hive operations like making splits, swarm control, requeening if necessary, mite washes, etc. These can be hands on meetings if you choose. Every month there is something new to learn or unusual to see even for the more experienced beekeepers.
Starting in 2015, hive checks will be scheduled between the regular meetings. Dates are listed on the right-hand side of the website homepage. These meetings are smaller, focused, and intimate. You will need to come ready to participate if you want to take full advantage of the opportunity. This is a time to gain hands-on experience on how to handle a hive and ask questions. You will get an opportunity to handle and inspect bees outside your own apiary. If you are starting with one hive as many do, this experience will be doubly valuable. You will get to see many different hives to compare to your own. If you ever see something in your hive you don’t understand, take a few pictures and send them to us or bring them to a meeting.
The more you handle bees, the more confident a beekeeper you will become. As with any endeavor, the more you put in the more you get out. Come out to the hive checks, ask questions, play with bees, and observe what is going on in the hives. With time, you will distinguish between a hive that is doing well and a hive that is struggling and why. You will learn to determine if a hive is queen-right by its look and sound. This will not all happen in the first year or maybe even the second. Be always a student.
There are three types of beekeepers; those who manage what is happening, those who watch what is happening, and those who wonder what just happened.
It takes time to become the first kind, but beware, as soon as you think you know what is going on, the bees change it up on you. That’s what they do.
Welcome to the rewarding (and sometimes frustrating) hobby of beekeeping.