When starting out, some hobby beekeepers feel overwhelmed with trying to understand what is going on in the hive and how they can best help their bees. I was really lucky when I learned how to keep bees, because I spent 40 hours per week with people who had spent years researching and keeping bees, and who never stopped asking questions to find more about bees (mainly Gary Reuter). If I didn’t understand something, there were several people who I could ask. For beekeepers that are just beginning, they rarely get access to the expertise and information that I did. There are books to read, classes to take, and people to talk to, but none of it compares to hands-on learning especially with someone that knows what they’re doing.
Through working at the University of Minnesota and with the MN Hobby Beekeepers, and teaching sold-out classes of 250 people on beekeeping, Marla Spivak was well aware of the volume of questions people have about keeping bees. There is a mentor program through the MN Hobby Beekeepers, but sometimes that wasn’t enough. So to help promote urban beekeeping, Marla’s idea formed a Bee Squad. The Squad helps new beekeepers by either helps keep colonies through providing hands-on training with personalized visits or with the “Hive to Bottle” program of keeping bees for people that want the benefits of a hive but are not interested in keeping the bees themselves.
On Sunday, I spent a few hours with Jessica Burtness, the head of the Bee Squad. The Squad is in its first summer, so Jess is only helping four beekeepers out at this point to help estimate costs and supplies for next year when the program expands. We went to three of locations to check on queens and made sure each had an ample number of honey supers. So far, the program seems to be going really well and people seem to be interested. I am looking forward to see where it goes.