Wednesday, April 20, 2011

LESSON 100: What 17 Years In Beekeeping Has Taught Me

Hello, we are David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, sharing a passion to help save the honey bee by encouraging more people to become beekeepers. This year, we surpassed all our goals and hopes. It is wonderful to see the thousands of people who have decided to keep bees.
Sheri and I are so thankful for all our customers who have become like family to us. I’m not sure why we have such loyal and supportive customers other than our customers see that we are honest, hard working and knowledgeable beekeepers. You’re the best!
Today, I want to share what I’ve learned over the last 17 years in beekeeping. But before I start our monumental 100th lesson, let me share with you what we’ve been doing and what’s coming up.

100fEvery April, we make up our packages for pickup. Our package bee pick up day was a huge success, with folks coming from states away to pick up packages. We shake packages for pick up from our friend’s hives, Larry Bergman. We’ve worked with Larry for 3 years now and Larry has been prepare packages for over 30 years.
100dIt’s always a fun time for me to prepare packages. We always have a great team of folks who have experience in preparing packages and are hard workers. So much goes in to shaking packages. An entire year goes into preparing to shake bees and it all comes to a head as we move colonies into one yard for the shake down day. Here’s a video of us shaking packages this year. I’m the fellow pouring the bees into the cages. If you have trouble watching the video in your Email version of this lesson, go to:

100cAs soon as the bees are shaken into beekeeper’s hives they go right to work! Here is a honey bee that has only been in the hive several hours and already she is out, busy collecting nectar and pollen. My son Christian noticed her on a dandelion. Why in the world do people destroy dandelions? They are the first real food source to get honey bees going after  long winter. As the bee flies through the air, she develops a static charge and upon approaching the dandelion, the pollen leaps off the flower and collects all over her body.
LESSON 100: What 17 Years In Beekeeping Has Taught Me
Today, I want to share what I’ve learned over the last 17 years in beekeeping. Maybe what I’ve learned can help you be a better beekeeper.
1) Do not believe everything you hear or are taught. Not everyone who is a beekeeper is an expert, though they may sound like one. Be careful to always take opinions with a grain of salt. When in doubt rely upon proven assays. There is so much wrong information out there, so keep bees based on good information.
2) Beekeepers are finger pointers. When our bees die, we do not want to blame our poor management styles, so we are quick to point the finger. First, we may blame the bee providers or queen providers as giving us bad stock. Or we may blame the weather or farm chemicals and on goes the list. Certainly, these can be the culprit. However, we must always honestly evaluate our own individual management success. Gone are the days when we could keep bees and not do much and they would be fine. Now, we have to be good managers of honey bees are they will perish.
les72b3) Understanding bee biology helps tremendously in keeping bees. In fact, most beekeeping questions I’m asked would not be asked of me if more people knew about bee biology. So it is so important for every beekeeper to be a continual student of the honey bee. You do not have to know everything before you start, but continue to learn to be a better beekeeper.
4) I’ve learned to let the honey bee teach me. Books are great, but bees teach us so much. Bees make better beekeepers, than beekeepers make bees. So allow the bees to teach you what works best for the colony, not what works best for you.
5) I’ve learned I’m an ambassador for the honey bee. We must speak in a positive light when representing the honey bee. Do not use the “A” word (Aggressive). Instead, use the word defensive. Do not refer to the Africanized bees as killer bees. It’s best not to talk about how many times you were stung. Speak about the advantages of the honey bee instead, such as how well they pollinate our crops and the health benefits of honey!
Lesson886) I’ve learned that beekeepers are some of the best people around. I’ve learned that beekeepers are good people, kind and nice. Beekeeping demands that you too should be good too. Treat other beekeepers with respect and kindness. Do not become resentful or territorial. With all the challenges in beekeeping, we do not need to be at odds with each other. We need to work together. We are in this together. Be a good person and you’ll contribute to better beekeeping.
nucs7) I’ve learned that the little things make me a better beekeeper. The Bible says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15.) If I fail to take care of the little things, I fail at beekeeping. Little things means keeping my equipment repaired. Keeping my store comb in good shape, equipment in good repair, putting back hive tools where they go, plugging up my smoke when done, and micromanaging my hives.
8) I’ve learned that I must keep extensive notes and logs on each hive. If I fail to keep a good hive log, my hives suffer from my lack of memory. A good log will provide for me a “to do list” that I can follow to keep my hives strong.
9) I’ve learned that I can learn something from everyone. I’ve had the privilege to work with several large scale beekeepers and they have all the tricks! I learned one last week. When you are working with several beekeepers in one place, lay your smoker on the ground so that the smoke does not bother the other beekeepers. So do not be a know-it-all. Be open minded so that you can learn from others.
10) I’ve learned that what I know should be shared with others. Freely it came to me, so why not share it with others.  Hopefully a publisher will come along and make me an offer to turn these lessons into a book for my retirement, but until then, I will freely share with others what I’m learning about beekeeping.
11) I’ve learned that bees are healthier as they are building up. If I start a hive in a 5 frame nuc, it seems to grow faster and then I move it into a 10 frame deep. As it continues to grow, it is very healthy. Older hives seem to become more effected by pests and diseases. Keeping a colony crowded provides better pest and disease control.
12) I’ve learned to attend every conference I can afford. Join a local club and attend your state beekeepers meetings. Here are two of my favorite conferences:
Heartland Apicultural Society
Eastern Apicultural Society The annual conference for EAS is a MUST ATTEND! All the big names in beekeeping hold classes for this outstanding event. Thanks for joining me again today for another great lesson, and lesson 100!
We are getting an early start to queens, so call us back and be patient. We’ll have more available each week as the year progresses.

Remember, we make our living from our bees and by selling equipment that we make here in our family business. We know you can go to the larger companies, but we always appreciate you supporting our family business. See you next time!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841
(217) 427-2678
Email For Beekeeping Questions Only:
Due to the overwhelming number of daily emails, please allow 7 days for an answer. (Please be advised that we do not accept orders, changes or questions about orders through email. With spam filters, email is not a reliable source for order information.)