If you are a new beekeeper, someone suggesting you get a mentor is not new to you. In today’s article, I will be discussing my opinion of mentors for new beekeepers. I will also discuss instances where having a mentor is not beneficial.
First, I want to say that when I use the term “new beekeepers” I am referring to beekeepers that are in their first or second year. It is important for me to make this distinction because, to be quite honest, I consider myself to be a new beekeeper. I have 7 years of experience, and have learned a lot, but when people refer to “new beekeepers” I often assume they are talking about me. So, to avoid confusion and angry comments, I want to make it very clear that I am addressing this article to first and second year beekeepers.
Should a New Beekeeper Get a Mentor?
I think that every new beekeeper should attempt to find a mentor. This doesn’t mean that every new beekeeper actually needs one. Looking at my own experience, a mentor could have saved me a lot of time and money in the beginning.
It is also important to note that when I say “Mentor,” I am talking about anyone with experience that you have direct contact with who can answer questions as they arise. You may already have one. A mentor could be someone in an online forum, the members of your local bee club, or it could be a neighbor down the road who has kept bees for 10 years.
Why Get a Mentor?
The following reasons to get a mentor should be fairly obvious. I will not be providing ground-shaking insights here. Most of these bullet points are reasons that I wish I would have found a good mentor in the beginning.
This is the biggest reason that I wish I would have found a good mentor. I would have saved a lot of money. Package bees are not cheap. My hives would have had a chance to survive winter if I had a mentor. This would have saved me from having to buy packages the following year.
It can be hard for new beekeepers to settle on a management style. There are a lot of beekeepers out there, and they all have an opinion, which is why it is important to find a good mentor early on. My first year of beekeeping, I fell victim to the idea that all treatments and feeding were bad. I adopted these ideas from beekeepers who I thought were good mentors, who actually didn’t know what they were talking about. I found out later, that many of their strategies were questionable. A GOOD mentor could have led me in a better direction.
I would have saved time if I had a mentor in the beginning. Having someone to go to when I had problems could have reduced the amount of time I spent researching. Now, there is a lot of good information on the web and in books, but there is an equal amount of bad information to trudge through.
There are a lot of good people who are more than happy to help new beekeepers any way they can. Many of them are willing to help FOR FREE. I have heard stories of senior club members helping new beekeepers by loaning equipment, giving away swarms, providing queens to those with queen-less hives, and even allowing new beekeepers to use their fancy stainless-steel honey extractors.
Beware of Bad Mentors
After giving you all of perks of having a mentor, I am going to give you a few words of caution. First of all, there are a lot of beekeepers out there, and all of them want to help. Their hearts are in the right place, but they don’t have the experience to be offering advice to others.
It is important to find someone you trust. It is equally important to find someone with experience. Your neighbor who started beekeeping last year may not be a good mentor. Thank them for their advice, take it if you feel right about it, and by all means seek a more experienced opinion if you have any doubts.
A bad mentor can cost you more time, money, and heartache than not having a mentor at all. But, don’t let this be an excuse not to try and find someone. There are a lot of good people out there, and it would be unwise not to find a mentor to consult.
I believe that a good mentor is a luxury, not a necessity. A mentor is not necessary to learn to manage your bees. However, I still recommend new beekeepers get a mentor. The reason is that there are too many benefits not to have one.
I am an example of someone who did not have a mentor in the beginning. But, eventually I found some good people to point me in the right direction. The mentors I have now are people that I have developed relationships with. These are individuals I can trust, and many of them I have never met in person.
If you are a new beekeeper, it wouldn’t hurt to find a mentor of some kind. Develop some good relationships with other beekeepers, and remember that not all mentors are created equal.