Running a website makes you a target for verbal abuse. Many people cannot—are actually incapable of—leaving a comment or question that isn’t couched in expletives, four-letter words, and insinuations about your intellect and parentage. It comes with the online territory and you get used to it.
I usually just ignore these outbursts, but recently one comment—now deleted—caught my eye because of the sheer volume of unpleasant verbiage. Reading between the foul-mouthed innuendos, I finally understood his complaint: I hadn’t adequately answered his prior question. He accused me of waffling, beating around the bush, and obfuscating. “Just tell me the [deleted] answer!” he wailed.
Curious, I searched through recent comments and found his original question. “Dozen of dead bees are all over my [deleted] landing board. What does that mean and what should I do?”
That’s it: no details, no location, no management information, no anything.
I tried to answer
At the time, I suggested some random ideas. If it’s spring in your area, look for this, this, and this. If it’s fall in your area, look for this, this, and that. Knowing nothing about him or his bees, I tried to suggest some general places to start.
In his opinion, this constituted waffling, and perhaps it is. He acted like I knew the answer but refused to share, but how the heck am I supposed to know what’s going on in his hive? It’s not for me to speculate, but I wonder if a lack of patient observation had anything to do with it.
No quick answers in beekeeping
Although this particular gentleman had unique communication skills, he’s not the only beekeeper who seems to think someone has a secret black book that contains all the answers. Some seem to think a few of us are guarding the secrets, that we “parcel out” the answers to special friends but hold the rest at bay. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My mind keeps wandering back to this exchange because it illustrates a point I’ve been making for years: the cookbook method of beekeeping doesn’t work. You can’t read through a list of instructions and find the one that applies. A discreet answer to every beekeeping problem does not exist.
Learning takes time
We learn beekeeping through experience, reading, experimentation, and making more than a few major mistakes. It’s cumulative. The more you know, the better you can guess, but you will never know it all.
Bees continue to surprise me. I am confused, stumped, and out-smarted by them constantly, yet more often than not, I am also delighted and amazed.
Isn’t it the complexity and unpredictability of bees that make beekeeping so fascinating? Isn’t it the mystery and the surprising twists and turns that hold us in thrall from year to year? And isn’t it the wonderment of the hive that keeps us coming back for more, against all odds?
Simple answers don’t exist
People demanding simple answers do not understand how complex a bee colony is or in how many ways it reacts to its ever-changing environment. No one-line answers exist, and those who insist on them will never be happy and never stay with beekeeping.
As any long-time keeper will tell you, the more you learn about bees, the less you know because every answer raises a half-dozen new questions. Questions outnumber answers in no time.
I don’t worry about my detractors. This one will soon find an answer he likes somewhere on the Internet, and I wish him good luck with that. He won’t come back here again, and that’s just as well because I refuse to make up an answer to please him, and I won’t post his rants for others to wade through. Good riddance.
The joy is in the journey
In beekeeping, as in many pursuits, it’s all about the journey. The processes of learning, developing skills, and sharing knowledge with others are much more satisfying than arriving at an artificial destination such as jars of honey or number of hives.
I know you know that because it’s the reason you’re still here, still learning, still working, and, yes, still making mistakes. Me too. After all, that’s what makes beekeeping so much fun.
Honey Bee Suite