The highs and lows of a full-time Australian beekeeper by Simeon Valkenburg
Commercial beekeeping certainly has its addictive highs and its all-consuming lows.
But we think it is important to start by saying that there are two main types of commercial beekeepers. There are those who get into beekeeping because they see it as an opportunity to make a quick dollar. But there are also those who get into the industry because they love nature and the bees. Both types have their highs and their lows, but they are of a somewhat different nature. We’d rather talk about those beekeepers with whom we feel we can really resonate – those who are motivated by love to start beekeeping.

When you love something, it soon becomes a focal point of your emotions. In a very real way, the object of your love makes you feel a success, or it makes you feel a failure. Your own state of mind hinges on the welfare of the things or creatures you adopt emotionally. For many people this is their own children. But in principle bees are much the same.
When we fail as commercial beekeepers we can fail on a large scale. But in a sense, because we run more hives, it can make it easier to pull nucs and make corrective actions. And when we succeed we can succeed on a large scale too! Oh how sweet it is to turn up at a busy load of bees! To work your bees almost every day! To see a whole drum, a whole IBC, even whole truck-loads of honey! How sweet it is to score a good site for your hives! At every stage on the journey each beekeeper has his/her own unique response. Mine is a peculiar mixture of, “I didn’t believe we would get there!” …. and … “I knew we could do this!” … and … “Thank you God for making this happen!” How sweet it is when you do the sums about your contribution to the economy through pollination and work out how many Australian families you are feeding! (On average every hive contributes $10000-$20000 to the economy!)

When things are sweet it is important to savour the moment, to remember the high, to enjoy the journey … because … you love your bees, and things will go wrong too … and your bees will drag you down if you have not fortified yourself emotionally. This is our advice to beekeepers for whom things go bad. It comes directly from our own experiences, and advice others have given to us. Make a conscious effort to enjoy the things that are still good in life. Take a minute to watch the sunrise. If you are driving at night, pull over, breathe deeply, and look at the stars. Question yourself, “Is there a greater purpose behind all this beauty which I am struggling to see? Is there anything else I would rather be doing?”
Each day work out the day’s greatest priority. Is it finishing an unfinished job from yesterday? Is it something else? Is it even perhaps taking a day off? Whatever it is, do it with all your might. Focus your whole attention on it and not on the things that are going wrong. And remember the good times. And what you choose to do you will give you a little sense of satisfaction when it is done well. And a well done job will help turn the ship back around. You might be surprised just how quickly your bees will respond and bring a smile back to your face.

And whatever you do, remember to build a network of like-minded fellow industry members. Call on each other. Enjoy each other’s success, and when someone is down, just help lift their burden a little. This will in turn help you on your own beekeeping journey. 

The highs and lows of a full-time Australian beekeeper by Simeon Valkenburg

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