What will bee, will bee

Continuing from my 2018 report card in my prior post, another yearly tradition: my 2019 goals. This is, perhaps, overdue, it being mid-February. Although the beekeeping season ramps up with the weather, so I should be okay. I gave myself a B grade for 2018, which at the time I thought was a little generous. I am working to evolve how I involve myself in beekeeping, so my goals are perhaps reflective of this. I have also decided to establish “grading criteria” to make it easier to do my report card next year. As usual, we’ll see how it goes, feedback is appreciated, and… what will be, will be.

First, an admission. We had warm weather about a week ago and I was disappointed to find that two of my hives had died. I knew the small top bar hive, Mimas, could be short on stores. Another top bar hive, Titan, also died, which was most unexpected. They both appear to have run out of food, which is a shame since this is (was) a very solvable problem. I still have five hives doing well, and fed them during the warmth, so I will keep my fingers crossed.

As for goals, I would love to simply have a goal to “enjoy myself more.” The 2018 year was tough, personally and professionally, and while I did a lot with beekeeping it felt rushed. Hurrying to check the bees, responding to conference and club emails, and overall focusing on the destination rather than the journey. The issue here, of course, is that enjoying yourself is not very measurable. How do you grade enjoying the journey? I’m still not sure, so the following will serve proxies for enjoying my beekeeping a bit more in the coming year.

In 2019, I aspire to do the following:

Goal 1: Winter losses below 10%


My poor Mimas on January 15, 2019, before I knew she was a goner.

Technically this takes me into 2020. Then again, winter storage for bees starts when the days get shorter after the June solstice, so perhaps not. It is frustrating that I have lost hives in the past two years, especially when I am certain that I could have done more. For my two dead hives this year, I should have checked their food supply and fed them sooner, and perhaps they would not have died. So this year I aim to be more diligent (even more diligent?) in having the hives prepared in the fall, and not delay in feeding them over the cold months.

My grading scale: an A if the hives are well prepared, alive, and I checked stores before the new year; a B if the hives are doing well but I haven’t checked stores; C for 10% losses, D for 15%, and F for anything over 15%.

Goal 2: Establish an out apiary

Our house is in the midst of a bee-heavy area. Two semi-commercial beekeepers are on either side of me, plus a bunch of hobbyists like myself. In the spring especially there are probably at least 200 hives within 3 miles of my house, and possibly even 300 or more. So I would like to see how hives do in a more isolated area, with less competition. There are a couple places I have in mind, I need to talk to the home owners….

Grading scale: an A if I establish an out apiary and do not lose any hives before the end of the year (am a little worried about bears…); B for simply establishing the apiary; C for getting permission; F for doing nothing.

Goal 3: Improved bloom tracking

This might seem a little strange, but I have been tracking bloom dates of plants in our yard since I started beekeeping in 2015. See my bloom tracking page for details. This year I am putting together a computerized way to do this, and additionally track how long plants bloom rather than just the start date. Stay tuned on this, as I am hoping to share my approach in March.

Grading scale: A if this goes well and is still in place for 2020; C if it kicks off but fizzles by next year; F if I give up before the end of March.

Goal 4: Blog once a month

My posts in 2018 were a bit sparse, and in fives separate months I did not share a single story. So this year I resolve to do at least one post per month. That seems possible, right? I assume this counts as for February….

Grading scale: A if I blog every month, with one drop in grade for each month missed.

Goal 5: Identify 5 “other” bees


My new net and a backyard bee book.

My stretch goal for the year is to identify 5 non-honey bees. I have a small net for catching them, and books for identification. I just need to spend some afternoons enjoying the yard and figuring out genus and maybe species. We have a large variety of bees that visit us, perhaps even more so with some of plants I’ve tried to establish. I am really looking forward to this one.

Grading scale: A for identifying and photographing bees in 5 different genus; B for identifying and photographing 5 different species, C if I don’t get pictures of all 5, D for 3 or 4, F for less than 3.

There you have it: my goals for the year. Wish me well!

What will be, will be

Alternately, in the words of the popular 1956 song, Que Sera, Sera. The song was song by Doris Day in the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much. According to some rather lengthy research at Southern Illinois University, the phrase first appeared as part of a poem in a 1470’s English manuscript; and in the 16th century was adopted as the family motto by the Earl of Bedford (either the father or the son, they’re not sure which).

I found this phrase while browsing my Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs book. It actually quotes Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales circa 1390 as the origin of this, though it does admit the phrase was “Whan a thyng is shapen, it shal be.” In any case, it seems a good quote for the somewhat fatalistic exercise of setting goals. In the end, it is what it is.

May you prosper and find honey.

4 thoughts on “What will bee, will bee

  1. Great idea to track flowering times by computer. And enjoying your beekeeping is the best goal. That’s one of mine too.

    With those big numbers of bees surrounding you I wonder if your bees are more at risk from diseases as well as forage competition. Nosema is invisible for instance. Not sure how you’d feel about this with several hives but annual brood comb changes can be a good husbandry method to help prevent diseases building up in combs.

    Happy beekeeping 😊


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