What Beekeeping Taught Me in 2023

Best Lesson Learned So Far
By: David Burns

I’ve been keeping bees for twenty-eight years and you would think I’d have it figured out and at my age, probably be well past learning anything new. However, last year was probably the year that I learned the most important lesson in beekeeping, and it probably isn’t what you think.

When I started beekeeping, different opinions, products and methods were not readily accessible as they are now. Without platforms like YouTube and online forums, my learning was limited to learning from only a single person. That single source of learning, as good as it was, stands in stark contrast to the diverse perspectives which are easily available today. Having learned beekeeping from this single mentor, I respectfully wanted to stay true to his opinions and styles toward beekeeping. Also, because I was so new and knew so little, I was too afraid to veer off course and try anything beyond what he had taught me.

Through the years as I gained more knowledge and experience, I began to experiment and try a few slightly different approaches. It took me forever, though, to try a screened bottom board or a fancy J-Hook hive tool. Let’s just say I had been pretty closed minded.

In 2023, I decided to become much more open-minded in beekeeping. After all, most of us do not enjoy closed-minded beekeepers who practically become bullies if you veer away from their opinions.

One area I have been so reluctant to change is in trying different types of hives. Out of respect for Rev. Langstroth and the fact that the Langstroth hive is all I’ve ever known, I just could never bring myself to try one of the many different types of hives that are flooding the industry.

Finally, I decided I would add four new types of hives into my apiary and try them out, experiment and determine if I liked them or not. Those three hives were just slight variations of a Langstroth hive, but one of these hives has been a ton of fun. It’s a horizontal hive. My horizontal hive holds thirty plus traditional Langstroth frames. I like this because these are the same frames I use throughout my operation. What I enjoy most about my horizontal hive is that I do not have to lift heavy hive boxes (yes, I’m getting older) and the height of the hive is so pleasant to work and inspect.

When we are open to different perspectives, as I chose to become, we expose ourselves to so many different experiences and knowledge beyond what we already know. Beekeeping involves science, art and skill which is constantly changing and improving. When we are open to new ideas and methods, it benefits our personal experience in beekeeping. It allows us to rethink our own, perhaps close-minded viewpoints and make more informed decisions. Beekeeping requires adaptability and creativity. New ideas, products and beekeeping methods can inspire even more innovation and lead to solving issues and problems from angles we may not have previously considered.

Being more open-minded is also about flexibility. Too many bee clubs are filled with obstinate rigidity and often, these very clubs stagnate and lose members. Being more flexible and approachable doesn’t mean we can’t still have our convictions; rather, it means we are able to question our beliefs in the light of new studies, science and arguments. It is understanding that no single person holds all the answers and that our own perspective is just one view among many beekeepers.

Beekeeping is a journey, and a lifelong learning process. We will never stop learning more about beekeeping. Choosing to be more open-minded allows us to have useful communication with others. When we approach these beekeeping conversations openly, we listen more attentively and consider the other person’s viewpoint, leading to more constructive collaboration, rather than fights and arguments.

When the Langstroth hive began to replace the previous types of hives, believe it or not, it was not readily received. There were many beekeepers that resisted this new type of hive. Rethinking change, however, does not come without its challenges. It requires a certain level of vulnerability and the courage to admit that we may be wrong. As a content creator on YouTube, I know firsthand that we live in a world brimming with misinformation. As we become more discerning about the validity of the content we are consuming, we can begin recognizing what is credible, taking everything with a grain of salt.

Learning this new lesson in beekeeping—and in life—has taught me that change is not only inevitable but also necessary for growth. In 2023, by integrating new hive types and methods into my practice, I not only improved my beekeeping skills but also enriched my personal development. I learned that in the delicate balance between tradition and innovation lies some really good progress. Perhaps, most importantly, we learn to model the behavior of the bees we tend—we adapt, we overcome and we flourish. Maybe this will also be your New Year’s resolution: an open mind, a willing heart and a hive thriving with possibility.

If you’d like to watch my videos on Winter tips visit: https://honeybeesonline.com/davids-youtube-channel.