Have You Lit It Yet?

By: Chappie McChesney

A Look At Mentors and Mentoring

When you ask most beekeepers this questions they have their smoker come to mind. Most have lit their smokers many times – some of us just about every day. But that is not what this question is about. It is about lighting a fuse. Why a fuse you may ask. Well, if you look up the word fuse in a dictionary you will see a definition like this – a safety device for protecting an electrical system which contains a material that will melt if too much electricity passes through the system. Now before you blow a fuse thinking
what this is about let me explain.

Fuse also is described in the dictionary as – a cord or tube along which a flame moves to light fireworks or a bomb. Now we are getting to what I want to share – lighting a fuse that burns to get an end result like an explosion of fireworks lighting up the sky is a good thing. Lighting a fuse with a new beekeeper is also a good thing when it leads to an explosion of knowledge for that person.

In my experience dealing with new beekeepers it seems that when we attempt to mentor the beginning beekeeper it is like lighting a fuse. Sometimes it is a slow burning fuse and it takes a long time to teach the mentees what they need and want to learn. Other times it does go off like a bomb and the new beekeeper explodes with information overload and ends up quitting the art of beekeeping altogether.

Mentoring is an art form in itself. You have to paint a picture with words and deeds to help interested students see the big picture. How can we do that? Well, first off you have to let everyone know that you are available to help them. You can do this by joining a beekeeping club or starting a new one if needed in your area. Lots of curious folks will come out to a meeting and listen to the information presented and then decide if they want to continue or not. This is where mentoring begins. Share information but do not overload them with things that they should not be involved in for a few years after they have become a basic beekeeper. A basic beekeeper does not need to know how to raise queens but should be taught how queens are made. By teaching basics you help them see the need to work their hives slowly and to be aware of what the queen is doing in the hive. As the fuse burns they learn to look for eggs before they learn to find the queen. They learn to pull frames slowly so they don’t roll the queen and kill the hive.

That is what a new beekeeper is looking for – ways to keep their hives alive. When you light a slow burning fuse it will take a year or two to get to the end result of having a newly dedicated beekeeper in your area that can light up the sky with honey bees.

Remember when you mentor that not all people learn the same way. Some are more visual and like to get their hands into the hive and work the bees to learn. Others would rather lay in bed at night and read a good book on bees. And sadly, many today will spend hours on the internet watching videos, reading blogs, and soaking up lots and lots of bad information that is out there.

No beekeeper is perfect in his/her beekeeping skills and if they say they are; be careful as they may lead you down a dead end where you may find your hives have died out (bomb) and you are left wondering what went wrong.

I have seen this so many times with well-meaning folks that mentor new beekeepers when they themselves still need a mentor to guide them. Egos can make folks do some very interesting things as we all know just from living in the human race. Some beekeeping mentors will mentor club members only, some write articles and books, some are scientists, some are professors at universities or researchers, and some do public events to help educate the public on ways to save honey bees, and some do it all.

These are all good things but there needs to be a way of filtering out the imposters that do more harm than good. These are the folks that will mentor folks until a problem arises and then they will abandon the mentees and their bees as they don’t know how to solve the problems that arise; and problems will arise in today’s beekeeping world.

How do they teach you to control diseases and pests in your hives? Do they go the natural route that so many “experts” claim does not work or do they go the chemical route that so many “experts” claim does not work. Are all “experts” the same? Of course not; but so many folks will believe anything they say.

One way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to get to know your mentor. Visit their apiaries and see the fruits of their labors. If they have strong healthy bees that are producing every year there is a good chance they are doing something right.

If on the other hand you find their hives are not really that strong and they lose lots of hives every year you might want to seek someone else to help you become successful.

This is where egos get in the way many times. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your bees. Remember, you are responsible to keep them alive if you want to be a beekeeper. Don’t be afraid to tell your mentor you have doubts after seeing his/her bees. Ask questions and expect good answers and not just opinions. We all have opinions but they are not worth very much to a weak hive of bees. A bee haver has bees but does not know how to help them flourish and grow from year to year. A word of caution here – telling a mentor you doubt his/her mentoring because you can see their bees are not healthy is lighting a quick fuse to a bomb. Many will blow up as their egos will be hurt. But if everyone would do this we might help the mentors improve as well and save more honey bees.

There are good sites online produced by universities, long time beekeepers, supply companies, and others that want to help. Again, it is a case of let the buyer beware. Do some research to see where their loyalties lie? If a large chemical company gives huge sums of money for research you can expect the end results will be in favor of that company. That is not opinion but fact. Of course those receiving the funds will deny this as they want you to believe they are fair and unbiased. We are dealing with human beings and we all have our faults. Many times we cannot see our own and it takes others to help us see where we might improve. Believe me, I get lots of input from so many others and again you have to consider the source and put whatever weight you need on any suggestions.

Bees do not do what book authors and scientist tell them to do. They do what they were created to do and they do it well if we stay out of their way. By trying to reinvent the wheel or make a new bee to suit our needs is not helping in the long run. The bees are constantly trying to adapt to the environment that man is creating that is full of so many deleterious things to bees. Just like humans they want to find good food to eat and clean water to drink. Where can they do that in this polluted world?

Even bee’s wax cannot be found that is not full of chemicals that have been brought into the hives from favor of that company. That is not opinion but fact. Of course those receiving the funds will deny this as they want you to believe they are fair and unbiased. We are dealing with human beings and we all have our faults. Many times we cannot see our own and it takes others to help us see where we might improve. Believe me, I get lots of input from so many others and again you have to consider the source and put whatever weight you need on any suggestions.

Bees do not do what book authors and scientist tell them to do. They do what they were created to do and they do it well if we stay out of their way. By trying to reinvent the wheel or make a new bee to suit our needs is not helping in the long run. The bees are constantly trying to adapt to the environment that man is creating that is full of so many deleterious things to bees. Just like humans they want to find good food to eat and clean water to drink. Where can they do that in this polluted world?

Even bee’s wax cannot be found that is not full of chemicals that have been brought into the hives from worst man would do until recent times when our great intellectuals decided we can improve the honey bees and make them produce more for mankind with all kinds of manipulations. We aren’t happy enjoying the sweet delightful honey or making candles from the bees wax. No, we want to make improved bees that will produce hundreds of pounds of honey each season without fail, feed themselves from the chemical laced crops that we pollute the earth with and not get weak or sick and die out. We want them to pollinate crops all over the world and not pick up any diseases while mixing with bees from all over the country that carry so many diseases and parasites. We want them to kill any pests in the hives with the help of more poisons dumped in on them, and the worst of all is we want bees to continue to communicate through their pheromones in the hive when they can’t smell brood or queen pheromones at all anymore because of the reek of the chemicals put in to “help” them and that contaminates the wax. It doesn’t make sense to me and it lights my fuse which is short when it comes to the welfare of honey bees.

I have heard mentors teaching the value of chemicals and how they save hives. I have heard mentors teach that if you do not treat your hives for Varroa mites the bees will die out in two years or less. I have heard mentors teach that queens should be replaced every six months as they only live for a year anyway. I have heard respected scientists and speakers quote Einstein saying that if the honey bees disappeared, all humans would die in four years.

That is pure ignorance as Einstein never said that and it is not true anyway. Those opinions do not match up with what common sense and the honey bees teach me.

I have bee colonies living in trees for many, many years without any treatments that are healthy and give me lots of worker bees every year. Varroa mites are in these colonies but the bees are surviving without any chemical help in spite of all the hazards they encounter every day.

My queens live for many years and produce very well. If folks want to replace queens it is their business but I wish they would give the unwanted queens to bee clubs to help new beekeepers instead of killing them. Some older queens produce quite well in spite of what the books and “experts” say.

So now I hope I have lit your fuse so you will make an effort to rethink what you have heard about honey bees. Sure the haters are getting ready to blow off at me which is welcomed. I take it all in and see if there is any value in their attacks that might help me learn more about saving the bees.

The problem is most of the haters are just duds when it comes right down to it. There fuses are short and they make a lot of noise when they go off but then they are usually gone like a puff of smoke.

And for those of you that say I should not be negative and keep everything on the happy, everything is rosy, up beat type of discussion I say this. If you can’t face the negatives and address them, how do you ever expect to change them to positives?

Try to let your fuse burn long enough to see that we all need to make some changes if we want to keep the pollinators alive. Can we save them all? Of course not but we can make an effort to do so if we are willing to make some changes.

My fuse is burning brightly for the bees and I hope to continue to do my part to help them for future generations. If you disagree with me it is ok. I expect you to go off on me but that is your problem and a premature detonation. 

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