4 Ways To Be A Better Beekeeper
I can say without a doubt in my mind that this is one of the most magical times of the year. Sometimes I find it hard to describe, but there is something beautiful that happens when you bring together great food, better company, and take time to celebrate everything you have accomplished over the past year. For many beekeepers that translates to looking back at the year and examining wins, losses, learning experiences, while at the same time creating a plan for how to improve in the coming season. Although some may agree living in a climate that allows for year-round beekeeping would be fun, in North Carolina we are fortunate to have this time of reflection and preparation for what is to come in the new year.
As we at Bee Downtown have taken time during the holiday season to reflect on our past year, we thought it may be helpful to share with you some of the lessons we have learned.
Review Last Season’s Notes and Make a Plan:
I can’t stress enough how helpful it is to keep notes on each of your hives as a reference of everything that can, and will, happen throughout the season. Whether you’re carrying around a pocket notebook or tracking hive scale data, being able to look back and figure out where things went wrong, or in some cases, where things went right, can be the basis of a successful beekeeping venture. (“Mental notes” don’t count)
Maybe you have big plans to expand your apiary, or maybe you simply want to try an alternative hive style like top bar or warre. Figure out what you want to accomplish next season and make a plan ahead of time. Don’t forget, if you’re looking to expand your apiary and won’t be relying solely on hive splits do to so, make sure to order your bees during this time as well. There is a high demand for bees, and suppliers will run out quickly so the sooner you’re on their list, the better.
Click here to check out hive tracking software.
Catch up on your Reading:
There are so many great resources available on beekeeping available for just about every topic you can imagine. History, techniques, equipment, queen rearing, research……the list goes on and on. To find the resources check out your local library or network with some of your fellow beekeepers and arrange a book exchange. We want to stress the importance of applying caution when searching for information online. Often you can find very helpful information, but many times resources can be unreliable and confusing. The American Bee Journal is a great monthly read that offers insightful articles that are seasonal and also includes information that can be beneficial for all skill levels.
Winter is a wonderful time of year to curl up with some reading material so find what peaks your interest and dive right in!
Click here for a list of good reading material.
Plant Your Pollinator Friendly Perennials and Trees:
There is a window of time when the ground has not yet frozen and your perennials have just become dormant for the winter. This is the time you want to consider planting new pollinator friendly plants in your garden. The Bee Downtown Team, along with the Interfaith Food Shuttle, just finished up a big volunteer day where we planted an array of pollinator friendly plants at the Geer St. Learning Garden in Downtown Durham where we keep two hives. These new plants will offer our pollinators forage throughout the spring, summer, and fall next year while at the same time offering us food and a beautiful environment right in the heart of Durham, N.C..
Click here for a list of pollinator friendly plants in your region.
Start a New Project:
Still wondering what to do with all that burr comb you collected through the year? Now’s the time to get creative and try your hand at some new crafts. Beeswax is so versatile and the best part is it comes right from your backyard! From lip balms, to mustache wax for your hipster friends, you can transform your excess wax into a great gift for the holidays. If you were fortunate enough to pull honey from your hives this year, try some recipes that will use your honey and share your masterpieces with your friends and neighbors! If you’re feeling truly adventurous, try spicing your honey up in a new way by creating Krupnikas, a Lithuanian honey spirit.
When you’re ready to get out of the kitchen and work on some projects outdoors, grab a friend and try designing and building your own solar wax melter. Not one for design? There are plenty that are available online, just grab some scrap wood and see what you come up with. Don’t forget to show those old boxes some love and take the time to repair any old equipment. With the right amount of care you can make just about anything last another season.
Click here for a solar wax melter design.