New beekeepers are frequently advised to go to their local beekeeping association to find a mentor, but little else is said about the subject which can lead to confusion and disappointment. Read on to find out what you need to know about finding a beekeeping mentor who is best for you and how to go about it.
Read a Book First
Before you begin the search for a mentor, you need to do a little work yourself. Your first step should be to read a book or take a course or both. It’s important that you have a basic understanding of beekeeping when you meet with potential mentors for a couple of different reasons. The first is that it will help you to communicate more clearly with your mentor and give you a better understanding of whatever arrangement the two of you come to. The second reason is that you do not want to begin your beekeeping experience by relying 100% on your mentor. There are many ways to do things in beekeeping and it is said that if you ask 10 beekeepers a question you will get 10 different answers. You should find out what interests you and discuss this with anyone who might mentor you so you can find the best match.
Do not Accept any Mentor, Accept the Right Mentor
It can be difficult to find any mentor at all so, if the opportunity arises, many new beekeepers enthusiastically accept a mentor without qualifying the true needs from that Mentor. It is also important that you feel you can relate easily to the mentor. Do not accept the guidance without asking the proper questions. Questions are a fundamental part of learning. Not all beekeeping mentors have the same level or type of experience and it can be useful to know this background information from the start. Find out how long your potential mentor has been keeping bees and ask. how many hives they manage? It’s also useful to know if they’ve ever mentored anyone before. If they have worked with other new beekeepers in the past, you may wish to talk to them about their experience. If you have decided to go down the horizontal beehive route then a mentor that only knows National hives will not provide the best experience.
Set Clear Expectations
It’s also important to set expectations. Make sure you communicate your weaknesses and what your goals are. Confirm if he is able to take calls for help at short notice or whether his time needs to be programmed. Be sure to find out what if anything they expect of you in return. It may be that a beekeeper is willing to teach you in exchange for help in their bee yard with no money changing hands, but what kind of help do they want? New beekeepers sometimes try to cherry pick the best learning experiences, while skipping out on the more labour intensive activities. For example, they may be eager to shadow during inspections, but won’t make themselves available for an afternoon of building honey supers. This kind of behaviour can create resentment between you and your mentor. It’s best to know up front if any kind of reciprocal work is expected of you in exchange for this learning experience.
A Good Mentor is worth his weight in gold so above all don’t abuse his generosity of time