The Key To Good Beekeeping Decision Making


By Jon Parker,
30 December 2013.

The Key To Good Beekeeping Decision Making

Effective Decision Making for Beekeepers

Someone asked me the other day if there was a mantra that would help them during their beekeeping career.

I went away and had a think about it and realised that the whole secret to good beekeeping is the ability to make effective and informed decisions. We cannot do effective decision making without knowledge and we cannot make good decisions consistently under time pressure.

If you think about your early beekeeping you will remember your mentors saying:

you must work with the bees, prevent swarming, keep the bees free from disease and never let them starve.

They never told you how to ensure any of it, that is probably because they had no clue themselves. We can never know everything about our bees because the subject of beekeeping is so huge; we simply don’t live enough years to learn it all. The best we can hope for is reducing our mistakes to an acceptable level.

Worst Case Scenario

Usually, finding a colony in swarm mode is the situation which needs the most radical type of intervention. Do not be tempted to just get on with an artificial swarm procedure there and then. It was quite happy in swarm mode for the hours before you arrived and it will more than likely be quite happy for the next few hours as well. Spend that time to rehearse your manipulation in your mind and even walk through it using spare equipment. Then, once you are ready, go into the colony and do nothing but look for the queen. If you start identifying suitable open brood and stores frames, for the manipulation you are about to perform, you stand little chance of being successful in the key stage….Finding that Queen. Once she is caged or secured then the rest is easy. All of this success will be entirely attributable to good decision making and planning. Now we have identified that making good decisions is critical, I would say my main mantra would be,

Never make a big decision with the hive still open.

Do Not Make That Decision Now!

Getting The Lid Back On Your Potential Disasters

I think you will make fewer mistakes if you make your key decisions at home, in the car or in the pub. I can vouch for this by hard earned experience. I was supervising the routine inspection of the most beautiful colony my children own in our garden. It was booming and close to going into swarm mode. I suggested we Demaree it, to take the wind out of its sails and generate some queen cells. We set about dismantling it there and then and got cracking on separating the frames. Then I remembered that I had not yet completed step one; I had not isolated the queen…..I had forgotten that you need to place the queen in the bottom box. I searched and searched but I just could not find her because I had gone off at the start and ripped all of the frames out. That meant I had to start all over, and sweep every bee into the bottom box….Except there were 2 boxes worth of bees of course….Totally stuck! It did have a happy ending…..I put a spare brood box on top of the bottom box, and then an excluder to keep the bees down, 2 supers and then the box with brood but no bees above another excluder with an entrance. A month later we had 2 colonies in one stack with 2 very healthy queens, but it could have gone horribly wrong.

Now I never make a decision about what to do with a hive unless the hive has its roof on.

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