beekeepers miscellaneous musings

How I scared away a new beekeeper

I‘ve been feeling guilty about something for over a year. The truth is this: I completely scared off a new beekeeper . . . or rather her husband. While I normally go out of my way to encourage new beekeepers, in this case, I snuffed one out before she even got started.

The husband in question runs a local packing and shipping business where I have a private mailbox. For years he has been fascinated by the things that arrive in my name: multiple big and heavy boxes–some with bees printed on the outside, catalogs with bees on the cover, and journals containing color photos of bees and hives and flowers. Even queens have made an occasional appearance. Time after time he has offered to carry these things to my truck, plying me with questions the entire time.

He has asked a zillion things and I have answered. I have given him honey three or four different times. He has told me that his wife wants to keep bees and that he was going to buy her a beginner kit for Christmas, then her birthday, then her anniversary . . . but the occasion never quite arrived.

Then came the day it all ended. I had given him a number of bee catalogs and on this particular day he had one opened to a page of bee suits. He said, “Do they stay white like that? Can you wash them?”

I laughed and said something to the effect that you could wash them till kingdom come but they never come clean. In fact, I said, mine looks really disgusting.

And that was it. He never asked another question. He never again mentioned getting bees for his wife. He stopped asking what flowers the bees were pollinating, and never again asked for honey. I killed all desire for bees by saying my bee suit was disgusting.

I feel really, really bad about this, but is it my fault? He is one of those people who is immaculately groomed with a spotlessly clean white truck, a perfectly ironed shirt, and impeccably cut hair. So should I have known this was the wrong thing to say? Should I have seen the writing on the wall? I can’t imagine keeping bees without getting a tad messy now and again, but that’s one reason for a bee suit, is it not?

I still have my private mailbox, and I still see this man about once a week. I sign for my boxes and he hands them over without a word. I’ve often wished his wife would show up at the store so I could invite her to the apiary. But she doesn’t, and I have never even met her. Too bad.

I’ve tried to forget the whole thing, but I’m reminded of it every time I climb into my bee suit which is, by the way, truly disgusting.


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  • I’ve read some place recently that propolis can be removed with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, at least from a camera.

    Perhaps it would also work on a bee suit.

    Failing that, perhaps an inexpensive, easily replaced, jumpsuit or judo outfit, with a tie-on veil, would solve the problem:
    use it until it gets too grubby then toss it and buy another.

    I use judo pants or digital camo pants where the stains don’t show.

    Dennis Law
    ( aka Paul D. Law )
    Brooklyn South Community Emergency Response Team
    Logistics Section

  • There’s nowt as queer as folk Rusty!
    His wife will never know what she’s missing – sad really.
    BTW – love your blog. As a novice beekeeper in Ireland I have learned sooo much.

  • You didn’t scare anyone away. You gave him the facts and he decided if it was right for him. Even if his wife wanted to keep bees, he would probably be stressed about it and cause problems in the marriage. The bees could possibly suffer as well. It’s best to tell it as it is and let people decide for themselves. Beekeeping is not for everyone. Last thought…you could suggest to him that his wife could help you out (or even him too) and see what it is all about. I just think people need all the possibilities of beekeeping to see if they can commit to it or if they can handle it. You did the right thing. I would want to know that before I spent all that money to find out I can handle beekeeping. All is well!

  • I offer friends disposable painter coveralls from Home Depot and then a tie down veil. Works great and no one feels badly about throwing the coveralls out when they are soiled or torn. It’s all good.

  • You might have a hyperactive conscience. I do. Which means you probably feel guilty even when you haven’t done anything wrong. (I’m not Catholic or religious. I’m just saying.)

    You probably did this person a favour. You may have inadvertently discouraged him, but had he gone forward with setting up his own hives, the messiness of it may have discouraged him even more.

    So you most likely saved him the trouble of learning the hard way that beekeeping isn’t for him.

  • Rusty: You did the bees a favor. The fact that he never did anything to start up beekeeping, after all the time and Q’s and A’s, was evidence he likely was one of those folks who was intrigued by the “idea” of beekeeping. The fact that he did not ask any Q’s after the “dirty bee suit” disclosure is further evidence that the “idea” of beekeeping was the basis of his interest and not the reality of beekeeping.

    All I can say is thank goodness the guy was either a procrastinator or too busy to act on his interest. I’ve seen too many folks who act on such interest, only to end-up being a disservice to the bees they are supposedly keeping, to their neighbors and the local beekeeping community. Rather than feel badly, you should feel good.

    I consider it a success whenever I provide information to someone who has expressed interest in beekeeping that is sufficient to enable them to decide they shall not take up beekeeping … at least right now. It means they are properly considering the reality of beekeeping rather than just the “idea” of it.

    Kudos to you!

    PS: My bee suit is also the pits, even right after properly laundered with soap and bleach (on cold wash and rinse) but I wear it as a badge of perseverance in my beekeeping endeavors.

  • I was thinking just like Phillip! I’m just saying! Lol. And look at all the money you saved him. He may come around yet. If not, c’est la vie! Beekeeping is not for the faint of heart!

  • I think he would get turned off in the second year when the propolis is nice and sticky; once he had to work frames that stick to him that would be it. Anything natural is usually “messy” and beekeeping is no exception.

  • Great story . . .

    Having done the bee gig for longer than most folks can imagine I often comment when I see some story about a beekeeper whose picture accompanies the story in an extremely white and obviously very new bee suit that they could not be a serious beekeeper and keep a suit that white.

  • What would happen the first time Mr Clean had to clean out a wax-moth-infested hive? (Me, today).

    When people start a sentence with “I would love…” to have goats (hear it all the time) keep bees, live in the country, have a farm, have “a” horse, drive a tractor… I put hands over ears and go “LALALALA-LALA!”

    • My husband and I frequently discuss the fact that two people on a small spread, one with a doctorate and one with a masters, spend all their “free” time cleaning up various forms of feces and vomit. Ah, the country life.