#4 The Mason Jar PhilosophyI could've titled this post #GoodToKnow: Langstroth-style beekeepers are to Top Bar Hivers as mountain bikers are to roadies: haters. Well, maybe that's a bit extreme, but more often than not it's a dichotomous relationship. You only need to attend one bee club meeting to find a Langstroth style beekeeper that will look at you like you're from another planet because you chose a Top Bar Hive. But I do encourage you to go to one because a good relationship with a beekeeping mentor will take your beekeeping to the next level quickly. Brent Edelen suggests finding a mentor with 3 years experience, but I must add that you need to find one using the same style hive as you are; if you're using TBH find a TBH mentor. If you're using Warré find a Warré mentor. If you're going to be taking someone's advice, you need it to be relevant. The answer to, "How do I feed my bees fondant in Winter?" is different for a Top Bar Hiver than a Warré or Langstroth Hiver.
The answer is not just logistical in nature; more important is the philosophical aspect. When it comes to bee/hive management, you're going to need someone that shares your view on not just how to feed, but whether to feed at all. Or to treat, to drone trap, pinch a queen… to help you with all the hard decisions so you can just get on with the business of keeping bees. Make sure to ask you mentor candidate what their philosophies are. As silly as it may seem, this is where the Mason Jar Philosophy comes into play. Some beekeepers put their honey only in glass and they use mason jars because they're maker-ish or something. I prefer glass too, but I have an issue with mason jars being used for honey. Mason jars and two-piece lids are for jelly and jam-making. If you're not "putting up" your honey, why on Earth would you use a mason jar? While jar style might not be the yard-stick to measure a mentor with, you need something to go by when looking for a mentor that believes the same things you do. So go ahead and find a beekeeper using the same style hive as you've chosen, and ask them what their mason jar philosophy is.
This kind of goes without saying; make sure that they're local. If your question is, "When do the Silver Maples start flowing in Denver; Can I stop feeding?" you want a Denver beekeeper to answer. The answer, by the way, is NOW and, "That Depends." Attend a local bee club meeting or two, specifically to find a mentor. There aren't a lot of seasoned TBH or Warré-style beekeepers, so be prepared for a reality where you're simply on your own.
#GoodToKnow: how to make your own jams, jellies and butters.
A good beekeeper is self-sufficient. "If you ask 10 beekeepers a question, you'll get 12 answers," is true. Trouble is, not all 12 answers are going to be good. Sometimes it's more confusing when you ask someone else their opinion. Often the best answer will come from within, if you ask yourself one simple question. "What do my bees need?" Always put the bees needs before your own, think through how to work smarter not harder, and you'll do well. A few quality beekeeping books on your shelves will help. Here's a couple that I like.