The Need for Beekeeping Mentors in Hawaii
Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
It is truly amazing the help and wealth of knowledge someone may be willing to share with you if you muster up the courage to simply ask for guidance. Granted it takes the right humble steward to be willing to give the guidance you seek. Lucky for Justin and I, we found just the mentor we needed. In fact, we struck the lottery! Today, we found ourselves surrounded by the wealth of knowledge you cannot receive any other way than by seeing it done first hand. We spent the day absorbing an abundance of pure knowledge and getting to see, hands on, the practical skills necessary for us to feel confident in beginning our own endeavor as beekeepers. We feel so incredibly honored to have taken part as students in this beekeeping mentor-ship by Scott from Hamakua Apiaries.
So how did we get so lucky to spend our morning in a Hawaiian macadamia nut field, overlooking the ocean, getting lost in the humming of the bees? Well to answer this question I must back my story up by 2 months. (Insert here the sound of a movie clip rewinding and playing our lives in fast backward motion). Now we have arrived on March 15, 2020. Today marks the day that I decided I needed to become a beekeeper. Please do not ask me why on that very day I decided it was time, because only heaven knows why I was struck with this wild hair. I mean I have always dreamed of keeping bees; however, I have never been at a point in my life where I thought I could actually do it. In fact, until today I still felt that way!
Back to the story, so I found an ad on craigslist for bee NUCs for sale. I have seen the ads before, but this time it was different. This ad had a link to a Facebook page that listed very detailed all the equipment I would need to become a beekeeper successfully! So what should I do? Well I add every item to my amazon cart of course! Then with puppy dog eyes I look at my partner and say, “Justin.. We are getting bees”. At this point he looks at me and says, “Well now we can finally put to use the beehive I bought last year!”. Safe to say this has been a dream of ours for a long time. That week we made arrangements to get our NUC from Hamakua Apiaries. We show up (keep in mind I have seen bee yards but this is my first time actually getting up close to bees), I don’t know who is buzzing more, me or the bees. At this point, I am overjoyed and extremely anxious. Scott spends some time with us giving us advice on how to be successful with these bees. As we load up the car with the bees Scott tells us that he has a bee yard near our home and anytime we want to come apprentice all we have to do is ask.
We successfully get our bees home and all set up, and now we arrive back to almost present day. Three days ago I began to come to the realization that I cannot keep “checking on my bees’ ‘ by simply looking at them from a far and thinking to myself “they are okay they don’t need me to disturb them”. The truth is that I am terrified to check on them. What if I kill my queen? What do I even need to “check”? What if I open the box and all my bees are covered with beetle?? Of course I start to fear the worst, and I am absolutely crusted. I think to myself – “am I really cut out to be a beekeeper?”. As I sit in this moment and I am watching my dreams crumble I remember “all you have to do is ask”. I quickly reach for my phone and send a text to Scott “Aloha! I am just reaching out on an offer you made when we picked up bees- could we come learn from you when you visit the yard near us? We would love to learn more from a professional”. Almost instantly I received a reply: “You guys are welcome to come with me anytime – Just let me know a couple of days when you’re available and you can come along”.
So the day we arranged to tag along arrived this morning. We woke up, loaded our half caffeinated bodies into the car, and met up with Scott. He took us to his bee yard and spent 4 hours of his time teaching us how to be beekeepers. Before today I was crippled with the idea that I might not be able to manage bees, but now I have confidence that you cannot gain by reading all the bee books you want. To me, it is infinitely clear that Hamakua Apiaries is selling more than just bees, they are providing people like us with the knowledge that gives a better chance to be successful.
All you have to do is ask.
May 16, 2020
Today Jessie and I had the privilege of learning about beekeeping from one of the leading experts in the industry here in Hawaii. An extremely humble and wise 3rd generation beekeeper, Scott, of Hamakua Apiaries. The day began in Hilo amidst 100s of acres of farmland overlooking Hilo Bay. Upon reaching the bee yard our lesson began and I found myself teeming with questions. Beekeeping has been a long time desire of mine, but I never really had the ability to even begin such an endeavor until now. Timing is always the key and for some reason everything has aligned for me in a way to allow for this opportunity and to get me to this point where my dreams are starting to become a reality. Filled with excitement I began to study and absorb as much of what was going on around me as I could. With bees buzzing past my head like cars on a freeway I watched as Scott began to remove the first lid of one of the hives. The intense calm and smoothness in which he operated was the first thing I noted. All while continuing to explain all the details necessary for novice beekeepers to know. I watched him get stung multiple times throughout the day mostly on his hands or fingers when he accidentally came into contact with a bee while working the frames but once on his ear and to my surprise he barely flinched, just kept on talking and working as smoothly and calmly as he began. If you take your time, work efficiently, and keep your head working with bees seems to be such a zen like form of work. For these reasons I feel even more compelled to become a beekeeper myself. Also I would just like to say Jessie and I were not stung once, and that for the most part getting stung while working bees is not usually the case. Despite the seeming chaos of the bees they are actually extremely calm. “As long as you don’t become a part of the bees agenda”, is what Scott said. This held to be true throughout the day.
Scott broke it all down into very simple and easy to understand methodologies for remembering what to do and look for when inspecting hives. From what I learned today basically it breaks down into rules of 3. Generally there are 3 boxes to make a complete hive. In each of those 3 boxes there are 3 things that you check for to give you indications on what is going on inside the hive. In the process of creating NUCs, which we did today, a frame is removed from the hive and then a new one is put in to replace it, in 1 of 3 positions. For a starter beekeeper we found out it is wise to have at least 3 hives for various purposes. There are 3 Types of bees present in any hive, a queen, drones and workers. There are 3 stages in the life cycle for a bee, egg, larva and pupae (Leather). There are 3 key ingredients a bee uses to create honey. There are 3 signals that can be made with rocks, to indicate to other beekeepers that may work the same bee yard to convey what work has been done or needs to be done. So much of what we learned today seemed to be paired in 3s making it so easy for me to understand and remember all of the information that Scott divulged to us. In conclusion, for a person like me who learns the best working hands on, I don’t know any other way I would have been able to obtain so much knowledge in such a short amount of time than with the expertise I was able to be a part of today. I feel so incredibly blessed to have received such practical guidance in beekeeping. I highly recommend that anyone interested in beekeeping to contact Scott at Hamakua Apiaries for the highest quality bees and expert advice to give even the most novice beekeeper the confidence needed to get started!