Mentoring Protocol

Guidelines for Helping Mentors work with New Beekeepers

  1. New beekeeper takes the East Jefferson Beekeepers Association’s (EJBees) Beginning Beekeeping Class, after which a mentor is assigned to help the new beekeeper.
  1. The first mentor meeting occurs at the mentor’s apiary BEFORE the new beekeeper obtains bees but after acquiring hive woodenware.

2A — What to demonstrate and discuss

  • Site selection (wind, sun, rain exposure)
  • Equipment (see Beginning Beekeeping Class materials for detailed list)
  • Boxes
    • Type
    • Dimensions
    • 6-5/8” Westerns
    • 9-5/8” Deeps
    • Buy ready-made boxes or purchase kits (how to assemble)
    • Screen bottom boards
    • Entrance hole, yes or no
  • Smoker and how to use it
  • Beekeeper’s tool kit (see Beginning Beekeeping Class materials for detailed list)
  • Record-keeping

2B — At mentor’s hives — discuss, demonstrate, hands-on

  • Discuss gloves
  • Discuss using your senses to evaluate hive conditions
  • Demonstrate and/or hands-on
    • Handling bees
    • Using tools in the hive
    • Adopting a good body position for inspecting hive (save your back!)
    • Lifting a hive box
    • Opening and “cracking” a hive and removing frames safely
    • Returning frames in order
    • Recognizing queen cell versus drone cell
    • Recognizing mites (if an opportunity arises)
    • Distinguishing a wasp from a bee
    • Recognizing the queen (if the opportunity arises)

2C — What to do when the bee package or “nuc” arrives

  • Inspect the queen (what to notice)
  • Avoid damaging the queen (how to accomplish this confidently)
  • For a package, keep the queen in her cage for at least 3 days (5 days is better)
  • Release her safely, then leave the hive strictly alone for 7 days after the release
  • After the 7 day period, immediately do the first inspection
  1. The second mentor meeting takes place at the new beekeeper’s apiary at least 2 weeks AFTER the bees (package or nuc) are received

3A — Maintenance and inspection

  • Feed bees appropriately
  • Crack the hive
  • Observe whether the queen is laying properly. Drone-laying queen?
  • Tear out cross-comb and sculpt irregular comb using a serrated knife
  • Inspect hive on a regular schedule – every 7 days (every 6 in June/July swarm season)
  • Look at brood, honey, pollen in the frames

3B — When to call mentor

  • Queen cells (supersedure cells, swarm cells)
  • LOTS of drone cells
  • A BIG problem with ants or wasps
  1. Third mentor meeting and/or urgent and emergency calls during the first year

4A — A mentor can be called later in the season in case of emergency and urgency

4B — Advanced topics

  • Queen cells and other swarm cells, and how to check the queen cell for a larva inside
  • Distinguish empty versus “charged” (with royal jelly) queen cell, with or without larva
  • Entrance reducer
  • Mite management
    • suppression and control
    • screen board
    • mite boards

4C — Review using smell, hearing, observation for information on hive condition

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