When people find out I’m a beekeeper, one of the first questions they ask is “how did that happen?” or “what made you want to do that?” The truth is – although I’ve always loved bees, I never really thought I’d become a beekeeper.
My husband Justin told me he had always wanted to become a beekeeper since he was a boy and that he really thought he should become a commercial beekeeper. Although I generally like change, my fears instantly set in – I had watched one too many documentaries to be dangerous and I was absolutely sure all the bees were dying and my husband was signing up to be the captain of a quickly sinking ship. I settled for “enthusiastic hobbyist” beekeepers for now because I’m always down to try something new, I absolutely love animals, and bees seemed like pretty fascinating creatures that needed some help. We bought some books and signed up to attend a bee school. This was about 2 years ago.
I’m not sure I can describe the excitement I had by the time we picked up our first package from Bee Weaver. I felt the vibrations and heard the hums of the bees inside that wood and screen box and I knew I was hooked. I suffered from the insane urge to open the hive every day (which I didn’t do, because remember, I read the books) and see how our little ladies were doing. We decided we needed 2 more and had been sharing our experience with all our friends. By the next month, we had acquired 2 more nucs and a “big boy hive” that had been abandoned in the back of a “friend of a friend’s” yard.
These awesome little creatures are so fascinating that it was absolutely impossible for me to not get entirely entangled in the beekeeping world. Whether it’s tiny flowers, little flies, caterpillars, praying mantis egg sacs, or ants carrying berries and leaves – these are all things I’ve noticed over the last couple of years of beekeeping and that I had never noticed before. I notice the and appreciate the literal “little things” in life and think, much more, about my impact on them. Something about making an effort to think more like a bee so you can be a better beekeeper translates to being a better person – or at least a better steward of the environment.
Looking back, sometimes I feel like Justin had it all figured out from the very beginning. Needless to say “enthusiastic hobbyist” has turned into 250+ hives and growing. Our goal for the end of the year is to enter Winter with 400 hives. Growing this quickly, on a budget, was done through a level of bootstrapping that I often feel like is worthy of its own “how to” book and is, at the very least, for another article altogether.
As I started to reflect on this serendipitous adventure into beekeeping, I realized that it came at the perfect time in my life. I’ve always been a little bit of a hippy at heart and so for me, nature has been a place where I spend time reflecting and finding myself. So, beekeeping is the walkabout I decided to take going into my 30s and is something that will likely come to define this decade and maybe my life.
This experience has brought with it so many things – a love for bees, a group of friends that I would have never otherwise made, and a quest for more knowledge about how nature works. I’ve found that this feeling of the “accidental beekeeper” is fairly common among those I’ve met who got into the hobby for one reason or another – tax exemptions, a love for honey, or to pollinate a garden. Maybe this isn’t the case for everybody, but I’ve seen a lot of people take on the hobby and fall completely, head-over-heels, in love with their bees. Now that my denial phase is over, I’m pretty sure my husband will accomplish his goal of becoming a commercial beekeeper and I guess I’ll be right there with him!