Sixty Minutes
Words in My Backyard

Calculated Risk . . . or Deciding Not To

When I was a little girl, I was terribly afraid of "bees."  I'm not exactly sure why.  But I was stung once or twice - and it hurt.  I didn't like it.  So I categorized all stinging, flying things as "bees" and decided I didn't like them.

And then I became a gardener.

I learned about the goodness of bees.  Real bees.  Both the honeybee and the millions of other hard-working bees.

I learned to differentiate the bees from wasps (bad) and hornets (also bad).

I learned how easy it is to garden with bees.  Because they are focused on collecting honey and nector.  Not on me.

I became a friend of all pollinators.

And . . . I got a notion to become a backyard beekeeper with a honeybee hive in my backyard.

It just seems a natural extension of my gardening.  I mean, I already create a safe, pollinator-friendly garden.  I attract butterflies and birds and native bees - on purpose.  I provide nesting sites for native bees.

Why not . . . a honeybee hive?


Plus . . . honey!

This winter, I've been reading a lot about backyard beekeeping.  I found a beekeeping-mentor.  I discovered the Kalamazoo Bee Club.  And a couple of weeks ago, I attended their full day Bee School.

I had been just kinda, sorta interested in beekeeping before Bee School.  But after Bee School?  I was All In!  The presenters and leaders were so inspiring and passionate about the bees -- and their beekeeping.  They made it seem do-able and fun and fascinating . . . and REAL.  Their enthusiasm and confidence spilled over and I was convinced.  I was going to be a beekeeper!

But Bee School also stressed me out.  Big Time.  Because . . . 

I should have already ordered my bees.  (But what kind?  And in what form?  And from where???)

And I should have TWO hives to start.  (But I was only planning on one.)

And I needed my hives and equipment NOW.  (And there is so much equipment.)  (And now I need TWO of everything.)

And placement in the garden is vital for success.  (But you don't want the neighbors to be alarmed.)

And, wow!  This stuff - including the bees - is expensive.  (We're talking -- an investment!)

I was STRESSED OUT.  My enthusiasm was waning, and I felt really bad about it.  I mean, here is this . . . thing . . . I've been really interested in trying for years.  Tom is incredibly supportive and encouraging about my trying it.  I have a local mentor who is willing to help me and show me the ropes.  I have the support of this huge Kalamazoo beekeeping community.  And, shoot -- my word is RISK . . . and here's a big one, starting me right in the face.

But I felt rushed.  And not quite ready.

And then I remembered that some risks . . . are calculated risks.  It's important to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages, to decide if the chance of exposure is worth the risk of success.

I calculated.  And decided . . . not to.  At least, not this year.  I'm going to spend this gardening season researching.  I'll help my mentor with his bees and see what it's really like to care for a hive.  I'll stay involved with the Bee Club and visit their apiaries and learn what I can.  I'll consider possible locations for a hive in my own garden this season, and I'll probably talk with my neighbors about what they think of having a hive so close by.

I feel so much better now.  I'm not ruling out beekeeeping altogether; I'm just slowing it down.  Maybe next year.  Maybe not.

We'll see!




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A calculated risk is the best kind to take! I'm very interested in your apiary adventures; I've had the same interest since Justin started college. He attended a "farm" school with lots of really cool classes, and Intro. to Beekeeping is among them. I've dithered about it for 4 years (it's not cheap), but thanks to you and reading The Backyard Beekeeper, this is the year I finally attend. I'm not sure I'll have my own hives anytime soon, but I at least need to don my bee veil and gain some knowledge. Enjoy your risk-weighing, time with your bee mentor and bees, and I hope you'll share some more of your experiences!


Sometimes you have to say no . . . to yes. Does that make sense at all? Read the book The Year of Yes and you will get it and be validated.


Doing more research and knowing when the time is right, or if this is the right venture for you at all, makes so much sense. To start a hobby that extensive you need all the facts and gathering info for a year just sounds smart. I want to see you in your apiary veil!


The investment is big for sure, but you'll be surprised how little you have to do with healthy hives. My bee-mentor said I "worried too much and was gonna kill them with kindness so knock it off". It's a lot of work a couple of times a season and the rest of the time you gotta chill out. That said I don't even have my own hives and I still can't chill. That's not likely to change for me eve when i have my own hives so he'll just keep laughing at my overbearingness.
Do more research, get more practice and then jump in next year!


You've calculated this risk perfectly. Clearly this is not an avenue to be taken lightly and spending time with your mentor will be worth its weight in...honey!


That sounds like a big commitment. You wouldn't want to rush in, buy all the stuff, become responsible for bee's lives and then decide it wasn't for you, right? Helping out with someone else's bees is exactly what I would have chosen.

Cheryl S.

Great way to approach the situation. It's definitely a big commitment, and nothing to be rushed. How great that you have a mentor, and a bee school!


I've always been leery of bees, but at the same time, I'm fascinated by them! I love reading books about them. And finding out "bee lore". However, I can't see myself ever having a hive (although I wish I could see myself doing it)!!
Wasps - ack!! I can still remember when I was younger and one landed on my arm. My Mom told me to stand still and it wouldn't sting me. Yeh, right - blam, it stung me!

Linda in VA


We have a local beekeeper that places hives in people's gardens. He takes care of them but you get to enjoy having them. Is that an option for you?


I love everything about this post! Your excitement, your uncertainty, your determination, your worries... and especially your decision. Sometimes our inner most being speaks and we never listen, but then other times - like this, we do and it is so right.

I think that helping your mentor is brilliant, as is investing yourself in the Kazoo Bee Community. A year of learning is a very good thing. And, I would love having a neighbor with bees - as would my garden!


Excellent and mature decision. I predict that you will enjoy this year tremendously and it will allow you to enjoy your eventual bees (or lack thereof) much more than if you had leaped in now.


It was enlightening to read your journey with beekeeping. Your approach is wise and I love you listened to that inner voice that said, "slow down."


Reasonable thing to do. No point in doing it half way and unprepared. I wish you were my neighbor, I'd let you put one of the hives in my yard.


I think that's perfect... especially the part about helping your mentor care for his hive. There is NOTHING like observing and the occasional opportunity to do it yourself.


taking it slow and embracing the risk later...sounds perfect. especially for bees (and stings). all that said, I can't quite picture you in full on bee garb!


Wonderful compromise! You have the chance to learn more about bees and the responsibilities of beekeeping w/o having total responsibility or incurring all the expense -- at least not now! Good luck! I'll be anxious to hear about your summer as a beekeeping intern.


Also, bees ARE creatures -- and I don't think one should ever take on the care of creatures to make a point, out of guilt, or without counting the cost. If it's right next year, you can do it "right". And you're leaving yourself with the ability to accept other risks (aka opportunities) that might present themselves.

My dad was an orchardist, and I have childhood memories of visiting "the bee lady" whose hives were hired to pollinate the trees. That was a big small business ;-)

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