Finding a mentor and networking with other beekeepers is the absolute best way to get into beekeeping. It’s also a great way to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes the rest of us did! Selecting a mentor can be difficult if you don’t know where to start.
Here are some places you can look to get the advice and resources that will most help you:
Find your local beekeeper’s club. Most states have this, but Texas is especially well equipped with Beekeeper Associations throughout most areas of Texas. If you’re looking for bee clubs near you, the Texas Beekeepers Association can be a great resource for finding those clubs.
Join Beekeeper related Facebook groups. These groups are often not “public” but are generally pretty accessible if you just ask to join. Once you find some groups you can post asking if there are any beekeepers near you.
Ask your local contacts – pest control services, farmers, farm supply stores, and even your county extension offices may have leads on local beekeepers that you can reach out to.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. I’ve learned that this industry is incredibly welcoming and that most people enjoy sharing everything they know with anybody who wants to listen. If you put it out there, you’re very likely to get what you need… well, at least more likely than if you didn’t say anything at all.
Youtube is a pretty good mentor if all the above fail, however, make sure you seek out people who are in a similar climate to you. Texas has many different climates so nothing beats a local beekeeping friend.
Attend bee schools near you – these are an awesome resource and a great way to support beekeepers near you while networking with people who can help you expand your knowledge.
Questions you may want to ask yourself before you seek a mentor, but also remember that it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. Often times people have great advice that may seem to contradict your ideals as a beekeeper. Although I encourage you to figure out what type of beekeeper you want to be (example: treatment vs. treatment free), I would also strongly encourage you to always listen to both sides of the coin. I’ve learned a lot about management tactics from both sides. Great beekeepers are often times people with a good level of common sense – just keep an open mind and let your mind decide what the “right thing” to do is because you will absolutely hear contradicting opinions and advice.
Finding someone with a similar approach can help you get the practical knowledge that’s hard to get in books. Here are some questions that may help you to decide who the right mentor is for you.
Do you plan to treat your bees for diseases, mites, etc.?
What type of hive will you be using?
What is your climate?
Are you in a rural or urban area? (Hint: These can have vastly different challenges)
How big do you plan to get? Find someone who can handle at least the number of hives you plan to manage.
Although we typically charge for our beekeeping classes, each year we take a small number of mentees on in order to meet our personal outreach goals. Since we’re also involved in the Texas Master Beekeeper program, we also use these mentee / mentor relationships to help meet our service credit requirements.