Challenges Beekeepers Face

I sometimes throw questions out on my Instagram account @noogahoneypot and save them in a beekeeping file in my Google Drive so I have a bank of things to talk about in my blog. This blog is designed around a great question I got from Joceline on Instagram!

It’s easy to lead with the good stuff and only talk about the fun parts of beekeeping but that isn’t a true picture of what keeping honeybees is about. Beekeeping can be a rewarding endeavor but it can also present several common challenges for all beekeepers. This blog will highlight some of the challenges.

One of the first things beekeepers grapple with is the complexities of hive management and bee behavior. Understanding the intricate dynamics within a bee colony, including swarming tendencies, queen rearing, and hive overcrowding, requires a deep knowledge of bee biology and behavior and are all things that can be challenging for both new and long time beekeepers alike.

Beekeepers must continually educate themselves and gain hands-on experience to effectively address these challenges and maintain thriving bee colonies. Balancing the needs of the colony can be a delicate task that requires skill and expertise. This is why it’s important to find a mentor. If you cannot find a mentor, find a group you can be a part of your first year or two. It’s extremely important to find someone in your area that you can ask questions of since beekeeping is regional. Beekeepeers in Maine aren’t doing the same thing as beekeepers in Florida.

Here’s a down and dirty list of some challenges beekeepers (and bees) face:

  1. Swarming: Bee colonies have a natural tendency to reproduce by swarming. While swarming is a survival mechanism for bees, it can be a challenge for beekeepers as it results in the loss of half the colony. Managing swarming behavior and preventing it when necessary requires skill and careful hive inspection. Learning timing is equally important
  2. Queen Health and Replacement: The queen bee is critical to the colony’s success. Ensuring the health and productivity of the queen, as well as knowing when and how to replace her when necessary, can be a complex task for beekeepers.
  3. Envrionmental Factors: Bees are highly sensitive to changes in their environment, including habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and climate fluctuations. Urbanization and agricultural intensification have reduced the availability of natural forage areas for bees, leading to food scarcity and nutritional stress. Beekeepers must work to mitigate these environmental stressors by providing supplementary food sources, practicing sustainable beekeeping methods, and advocating for policies that protect bee-friendly landscapes.
  4. Honeybee Health: Another difficult issue is colony health management. Honeybee colonies are susceptible to various diseases, parasites, and pests, such as Varroa mites and Small Hive Beetles. Maintaining the health of bee colonies requires regular inspections (and knowing what to look for during inspections), early detection of issues, and appropriate treatment measures can help to prevent colony losses. There are diseases bees are succeptible to that cannot be seen with the naked eye, like Nosema. If not properly managed they can weaken and ultimately kill colonies. Beekeepers need to stay informed about the latest research and best practices in bee health management to combat these challenges effectively.
  5. Regulatory and Legal Issues: Depending on the region, there may be regulations and legal requirements for beekeeping, including hive registration, disease management, and beekeeper education. Navigating these requirements can be challenging, especially for newcomers to beekeeping.

ONE OF THE TOUGHEST things about beekeeping is learning to listen to the right people. If you make a post in a beekeeping forum on Facebook you are going to get 50 different answers. Different colonies have different needs and what works for one might not work for another. Again,

While I am at it-if you want to be a “treatment free” beekeeper, good for you. But my advice is to wait until you know how to keep bees the traditional way before branching off into something new. Starting with a standard Langstroth hive you will be able to ask questions of those around you that have the same setups. If you are treatment free using a horizontal hive you are narrowing down your sources for good information if you need to troubleshoot. Start with the basics and when your bees make it through winter a couple years go where you want to go! *check out these bearding bees*

Beekeeping is a complex and nuanced practice. Learning about bee biology, hive management, and the various challenges and solutions takes time and experience. Novice beekeepers often face a steep learning curve but if it’s something you truly commit yourself to, with the right support you will hopefully be able to hang in there and not give up when you have a setback.

That works with most things in life…not just beekeeping.