My mentor Steve told me on my very first day of beekeeping there is one rule to follow at all times. This rule should guide all beekeeping decisions. I was very eager to hear what the “rule” was because as a new beekeeper I wanted to have all the expert advice.

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I stood there like a child, wide eyed, excited to hear the good news. Steve looked at me and asked “Do you know what the number rule in beekeeping is? Listen carefully…..” Then, in a slow enunciated tone he continued, “The rule is – There are NO rules.”

I stood there in silence for a moment, eyes squinted, bees buzzing around me, and scratching my head. “Wait, can you repeat that?” I asked. Steve repeated in the same tone as before, “There are no rules in beekeeping.” My shoulders slowly sunk and I felt confused and disappointed. I remember thinking to myself that it would have been better if Steve had never even mentioned that silly rule at all. How was that rule supposed to clarify anything, or help me make any decisions? It would only make it more difficult!

Boy oh boy, have I learned how important this rule truly is.

  1. There are many ways to complete the same task and get the same results. You will begin to notice that some beekeepers will swear by a strategy, while a book you read claims a different approach is best. For example, some beekeepers will wrap their hives in black tar paper before winter to assist in keeping the hives warm over the cold winter months. Other beekeepers will say this is a complete waste of time. The bottom line is, plenty of hives survive the winter with or without tar paper. On the other hand, some die over winter with both strategies. There’s no rule that ensures them either way.
  2. There’s a ton of beekeeping tools and equipment for sale, but you don’t need it all. Some folks love to buy every cool tool in the beekeeping catalog because they think it will magically improve their success. Others like to make their own hand-made versions of these tools. And, others, find these tools useless. For example, a frame grip is a tool that acts like pliers for pulling frames out of your hive. Some love this tool, while I find my fingers and a strong grip just as good. However, there is no rule saying you must or must not have this tool.
  3. Articles, books, and mentor advice will often contradict one another. I once read in a beginner’s beekeeping book that vented bottom boards will without a doubt reduce the amount of mites in your hives. I then went onto one of my favorite referral sites (scientificbeekeeping.com) and read that vented bottom boards don’t reduce mites at all, and that they are total malarky. To make matters more confusing, some of my beekeeping friends swear by them, while others completely disagree. Again, there are no rules in beekeeping. I’ve learned to gather research from multiple sources before I make my own decision.

That’s the trick – you want to make your OWN decision. You should be comfortable with your beekeeping decisions and know why you are making them, and NOT because a book or beekeeper told you to. Maybe you’re inspired by this! Or maybe, like me, you feel more confused than before. Get out there and do some research, try some things out, make some mistakes, and learn!

Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!