To me, the phrase, “Welcome back” brings back memories of high school after the long summer break. It was a bittersweet phrase.
On one hand, it was exciting to start a new school year… but also intimidating … new kids … new bullies … and even a new locker combination. Who didn’t struggle with that, followed by reoccurring nightmares of not being able to open it up and the final passing bell sounding? Terrifying, quite terrifying. We can think of today, January 17th as our first day of school with summer break officially over.
As pimply teenagers, summer break meant that most of us became slackers. We got up late, we hung out with friends, watched MTV, and played baseball in the local lot. Some of us worked … like working on our tans. Bottom line, we enjoyed not having to do reports, studying for exams, or catching the bus or anything else. We had no obligations.
And as beekeepers, that’s kind of where we are today, and have been for the last 2 months and even the next couple months. It’s the quiet period for beekeeping and we have a chance to relive our slacker summer schedule unless we feel ambitious enough to build and paint new hives.
And while beekeeping is on break, it’s the beginning of the “school” year for WillBees and it’s so nice to see many familiar faces and new ones as well. With the anticipation that comes along with the new year, comes a variety of exciting topics we’ll be sharing.
Some of us are new to beekeeping, perhaps you don’t even have a hive tool yet … which is the cheapest and most important tool that you will loose … believe me. Some of us are quite seasoned … just look at our gray hair. And some are right in the middle, still trying to get their bearings on the whole beekeeping “thing.” When you think of it, we can align all of you as students in high school.
Hmmm, that’s sounds like fun…
So who’s a freshman here. And what I mean by that is “this is your first time here” and you’re just starting to get into beekeeping.
Just a warning, my hair was not gray when I started keeping bee.
Joking aside, as a freshman … which back in the day we called bennies for some reason, I’m pretty sure you were a bag of mixed emotions … perhaps nervous energy, sort of like when you asked that cute girl to go out. So many things could go wrong … what if she says no, “can I handle that sort of rejection” – famous words of Marty McFly’s dad. Being this is your first time here, the anxiety to strike up a new conversation with a random person could be intimidating, but rest assured you are in good hands with this group, and I encourage you ask questions.
For a freshman of beekeeping, it’s an awkward time, sort of like growing into a young adult. You want to be a “big person”, but your body and emotions are still working it out. There’s so much to learn in beekeeping … which you will as the season progresses…everything from hive components, to installing bee packages and hopefully harvesting honey.
You can’t go wrong talking to any of us, since this meeting is basically a therapy session for all of us. My wife forbids me to talk bees at home and this is when I get it all out. Becoming a beekeeper is exciting, scary, and awkward all at the same time, but you’ll make your way through the first year, even if you do get a few “d” and “c’s”.
Who’s a sophomore … a second-year beekeeper? Sophomore year was probably the best time for me in high school. I knew the school, I had a nice group of friends, and I had my first girlfriend. I began to come out of my nervous freshmen shell, enough to feel confident to wear crazy clothing like Jams and parachute pants, while spiking my hair. The second-year beekeeper goes into the season with a bit more confidence beyond just “making in though” like the first year.
Perhaps you may even feel a bit cocky, like some of the sports jocks after a winning freshman season, but I want to caution you, this is another year all together. While some of that awkwardness is gone, you still have those occasional “pimples” when it counts the most. While you’ve been inspecting and treating your hives along with a whole host of responsibilities, this year’s expanding colonies … that survived the winter, will keep you on your toes with their natural instinct to swarm. This year will be a year of “how keep your bees in the hive” and out of the trees.
Okay, let’s see the juniors … who is a third year beekeeper? In high school I always heard this was the toughest year. And I agree. There was a lot to manage in high school from getting a part time job to buying your first set of wheels and keeping it running, to looking awesome with the latest fashions and of course, staying on top of your studies. Year three learnings will take a deeper drive from “how to do stuff” to actually “understanding how things happen,” and then making management decisions. This is the year that you may be able to identify characteristics in your hive that could either suggest all is well, or “oh no, what the fudge!” Some of you may take a leap and try your hand at raising queens to avoid trips to Dave’s place in Minooka, or you might go super crazy and expand your apiary by doing multiple splits. Junior year … you’re near the top of your class, you know what you know, but it’s time to go deeper, because as cool as you are… and you are, there’s so much more to learn.
Okay, that puts the rest of us as seniors. Let’s see the hands. Once again, the majority with gray hair … or no hair … sorry Dennis. As a high school student, no one ever wanted to admit that they were on the 5-year plan, but the reality is … as beekeepers … we are on 5,10, 30 year plan, in fact we’ll never graduate. Sad, but true.
It’s sort of like those weekend detentions when the clock seamed to go backwards. As seniors, the cockiness of our junior year is long gone. We are not as awesome as we thought we were. We know we are going to have failures, and that’s okay as long as we learn from them. We are also going to have successes.
I raised my first queen last year, and although I’m not nuts about her demeanor, it was a success. And while we’ll never hear that repetitive graduation music over and over again as we walk down the aisle in our graduation gowns, we will be able to share our knowledge with our under classmen, and that’s pretty cool.
Yes, us seniors have developed from those awkward freshmen years to the somewhat confident beekeepers we are today and looking good while doing it.
So here we are. Class 1 of the 2024 year. We have a great year planned, and we… the board … hope you find value at every class.