I recently attended a beekeeping education session hosted by the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club. The speaker was Ellen Topitzhofer, the Oregon State University Crop Protection Agent. She first defined “management strategy” as the way a beekeeper approaches keeping their hives healthy and producing, as best as they can, through the actions they choose to take. She put extra emphasis on the concept of choice. As beekeepers, we have many different methods for getting our hives through the winter, treating for Varroa mites, feeding, keeping them ventilated, etc. Which option we choose is up to us.
Nearly 70 people attended Ellen Topitzhofer’s presentation!
How can we then make the best decisions possible to manage our hives? She discussed three main points that she has noticed separates good beekeepers from unsuccessful ones in decision making. I can’t agree more!
1. Think like a biologist – Biologists make decisions based on factual data, research, and practices that are proven effective. Therefore, a good beekeeper uses their resources to make good decisions. For example, connect with a mentor – someone who has been a successful beekeeper for more years than you. Or, do some research! Not sure what Varroa mite control options are proven most effective? Read articles (ones with large sample sizes from reliable sources) that note the efficacy of various treatment options.
2. Know your problems – The first step to a solution is actually recognizing what the issue is to begin with. Therefore, it is crucial for beekeepers to be able to recognize issues and take appropriate action if needed. Research the various diseases that affect honey bees and know what the symptoms look like.
3. Take responsibility of your hives – A good beekeeper takes thorough notes on their hives. Through doing this, you can look back at your notes to see patterns (When do your mite counts tend to be the highest? What time of year did the bees start to bring in nectar and pollen in your area? Do you see trends or problems with your over-wintering techniques?). Taking good notes allows you to see what is really going on with your colonies, take responsibility over those results, and act accordingly.
TVBC club members, guests, Ellen Topitzhofer, and Carolyn Breece with the Oregon State University Master Beekeeping Program
Beekeeping management strategies vary from person-to-person and region-to-region. What works in Georgia may not work here in the Northwest. What failed for your neighbor might be working great for you. The strategies for successful beekeeping in 1975 aren’t necessarily successful today. A good beekeeper finds their own management strategy based on experience, research, and good observation. Find yours and never stop learning.
Thanks Ellen and Carolyn for visiting Boise and sharing your experience with us!
Ellen Topitzhofer and Carolyn Breece from Oregon State University
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!