beekeepers miscellaneous musings

Beekeeping is not rocket science

No, beekeeping is not rocket science. It would be nice if it were that easy.

My engineer husband has a skinny little book–about a half-inch thick–that explains everything you need to know about building a rocket. It has charts, tables, and graphs about things like nozzle sizes and thrust. It’s a cookbook. If you can read the book, you can build a rocket.

Nothing about beekeeping is nearly that simple. You can have six dozen books and fifty years of experience and still lose half your bees . . . or all of them. It happens.

My point here is not to discourage you, but to remind you that beekeeping is not simple. I have read many e-mails this year from beekeepers who lost some, most, or all their bees. I can often hear despair in the words they write and sense the disappointment they feel. But don’t beat yourself up! Remember, the entire planet is conspiring against honey bees and it’s your job to help them.

The challenges for beekeepers are legion. You know what they are. Dozens of diseases, hundreds of pesticides, along with habitat destruction, urbanization, climate change, invasive species, land fragmentation, inbred bees, genetically modified organisms, monoculture crops, and industrial farming to name a few. Each in its own way affects honey bees, often in ways we don’t understand.

Beekeeping is evolving with the times, but the environmental changes are occurring even faster. As a result, colony failure is commonplace.

You cannot afford to become discouraged. If you lose your bees, start again. Try something different. Hone your skills. I truly believe that every beekeeper, whether he has fifty days or fifty years of experience, has the opportunity to offer something to the rest of us.

Beekeeping is a mysterious and magical endeavor, but there is much to learn. And the actual keeping of bees is just the tip of the iceberg–a good beekeeper knows something about plant biology, pollination, bloom times, insecticides, herbicides, nutrition, weather patterns, disease organisms, crop production, heat gain/loss in outdoor spaces, moisture control, reproductive strategies of various pests, carpentry, and even candy making.

The many aspects of beekeeping provide endless opportunities for innovation. And remember, we don’t know where the next breakthrough will come from . . . but it could come from you.


Hives in spring.


  • Yeah, tell me about it. Today might qualify as the lousiest beekeeping day I’ve ever had. I’m not discouraged, but I’m not going to lie. I didn’t enjoy the experience (which is a prerequisite for most learning experiences).

    One little problem led to another problem, and my solutions to those problems created other problems. The moment has passed and the bees seem to be back to normal. So I didn’t kill them. I’m happy about that. But it was obvious today that sometimes I have no clue what I’m doing.

    It’s great to see the bees getting on with business after I came through town like a hurricane. Smart bees. Smarter than me, they are.

    • Jeff,

      Very little snow. Some years we have none. But, rain? OMG. All my hive stands are covered. It allows me to open them from time to time even during the rainy season. The rainy season starts in late September and ends in early July. That’s like the whole year minus a little.

  • I get my first bee hive on Monday. No snow here in Thailand. I am brand new to this so forgive me but i wonder why this appears to be so difficult for some people?

    • Because it is difficult. Nothing about beekeeping is easy. I don’t know anything about beekeeping conditions in Thailand, but I suspect you will have your challenges.

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