The Horrors of Beekeeping Addiction
by Mike Immer
Hi. My name is Mike, and I’m addicted to beekeeping. (Hi Mike)
It all started a few years ago when my dad said he had always wanted bees.
I read and researched and learned what I could the year before we bought three colonies. And it’s been a growing obsession.
I grew from three to nine to twenty. It was starting to get out of control, but I hadn’t hit rock bottom yet.
Along the way I fell in with the wrong crowd… Other beekeepers.
They were so encouraging, and made it sound so great.
They even ‘helped’ me grow my numbers, learn faster, and even ‘allowed’ me to learn, in THEIR yards, with THEIR bees.
It turned out they were all part of the same gang. The gang was called the Mentors.
It was hard to get in at first. It took some persistence to even get a call back. I later learned that this was by design, and that a lot of newbies don’t want to be persistent, and don’t want to learn, or work hard.
They finally let me in, and although they didn’t call me this, I knew, as an inductee, or as a new member of the gang…I didn’t really have any status.
I had a good work ethic and an open mind. I…was called…a MENTEE!
Once I was in, I WAS IN!
I learned there were SO MANY MORE ways to do things, and more opinions than there were beekeepers!
I decided to keep to myself until on social media and in regards to helping other beekeepers until I had learned A LOT MORE.
Until had some ideas of what worked best for me, and a couple of years under my belt, I was going to keep my head down, and learn, learn, learn.
I didn’t want to embarrass myself by simply regurgitating what I read or watched online.
I wanted to share from a place of experience.
I barely made a peep about beekeeping in the Facebook groups I lurked in. Yet all the while…I was learning.
Randy Oliver’s site, www.scientificbeekeeping.com became one of my favorite sources.
Cruising youtube for information started to fade in favor of more legitimate and specific sources like Ian Steppler in Canada, as well as interaction from the Missouri State Beekeepers Association (www.mostatebeekeepers.org).
I began to want to attend local club meetings, but my schedule and my passion for MORE BEES interfered. So I didn’t really start out making the club rounds, either.
Day job, plus family, plus becoming more and more immersed in beekeeping on a large scale just made going to club meetings impossible, if not inconvenient, even though I still wanted to go.
But it seemed my near obsession had leapfrogged the hobby/home/starter beekeeping stage to sideliner/sideliner helper somehow!
It was super exciting! But to be sure, it wasn’t all fun and games.
It turned out that, to me, the Mentors were a bit like pushers and punishers at the same time.
The shear volume of work involved with managing hundreds of hives REQUIRED me to learn faster, to sweat more, and to become a better beekeeper.
It even turned out to be a great way to improve physical fitness. And while some would look at this and see ‘free labor’ and laugh about it…I didn’t.
I COULDN’T GET ENOUGH!!!
I was addicted.
The sights and sounds, and even the smells in the bee yard, with smokers puffing, bees buzzing, etc.
I LOVED IT…maybe too much…
I started to get a sense that I was sinking deeper into the darker side of beekeeping.
But I HAD to have MORE!
MORE BEES! MORE HIVES! MORE HONEY! MORE BEE TALK!
Sadly, I succumbed to the need for more.
I started spending more.
I started selling things.
It took more and more…time.
Then it took an even DARKER turn.
I joined every beekeeping group on Facebook that I could. I was watching videos late at night, and planning early morning beekeeping trips with my gang, the Mentors.
I was in and out of hundreds of hives, and even traveled to help with hundreds more!
I was taking days off of work, burning vacation and personal days to work bees.
I was spending my breaks with bees.
I was spending time almost every weekend and evening working with, and learning about bees.
I was climbing trees in lightning storms to rescue/capture swarms!
I was building things. BUILDING THINGS!
I am a COMPUTER NERD! I have no business BUILDING THINGS!!!!
Boxes, lids, baseboards, shims, pallets. I COULDN’T STOP!
I started buying TOOLS! And more…always more…frames, and foundations.
And I was stuck…STUCK in the hamster wheel of beekeeping, trying to balance my NEED for MORE with the rest of my life.
Now, I’ve always been a proponent of the philosophy that in order to get more, you have to DO more.
I realize that this is a very unpopular belief these days. But that’s how I was raised.
That horrible thought that ‘hard work is important’ probably shouldn’t be said, at least not in public. But that’s where I come from.
I did everything I could to help my gang, the MENTORS, until I finally became a full fledged MENTOR myself!
Even MENTORS have MENTORS! If you work hard at it, and have a good attitude, you might even become friends with more senior gang members.
I can’t say that there weren’t, or aren’t any positives.
I became great friends with Matthew Winstead of Midwest Bee Removal, who is fast becoming one of the biggest beekeepers in the area, and also, the great Paul Landsberg, out of Clinton.
I even got to meet some of the most respected people in the Kansas City area, including (but not limited to) John Speckman, Terry O’Bryan, and even more online than in person. Stuart Deitz and Cathy O’bryan Misko, and so many others.
I was dependable, I worked hard, I helped as much as I could, I tried to anticipate needs, and wasn’t afraid to learn new things.
I finally engaged in online conversations respectfully, politely, and with an understanding that there will be differing opinions.
I finally adopted a “no judgment” attitude toward beekeepers, both new and experienced.
And although I sometimes slip, I try to remember…I was new once…and EVERYONE is starting at a different point, with different skills, etc.
And the bees themselves seem to present something new, even baffling to beekeepers with vastly more experience than me.
I think that this is one of the things I like about beekeeping, and that makes it so addictive to me. It’s rarely the same, one hive or one yard to another.
But things continued to decline.
And finally, I hit rock bottom.
My passion to educate others consumed me, to the point that I could no longer keep it to myself.
I realized that there was an ENORMOUS NEED for one on one, on site, assistance and education.
I realized that there were MANY people, and MANY organizations, that WANTED to help, but didn’t know how.
And I formed a company, dedicated to beekeeping education and services.
And now…this is so difficult to admit…I have begun providing presentations and trainings to groups and organizations.
I started a Youtube channel (search www.youtube.com for BeeResQ).
Videos of what I discovered were very needed services…like…Hive/Colony Assessments, Site Consultation, Mite Checks, and more.
I started offering services, such as pollination, and startup kits, and hive/colony rental for businesses, schools, and individuals.
Even services to go feed and tend hives for people who have to go out of town, or take vacations.
And the most shameful part…
I’m putting it all out there now…
In order to support my habit, I started SELLING BEES… (at www.BeeResQ.com)…
And I started robbing my remaining bees of their hard won resources.
I. STARTED. SELLING. HONEY. That’s right.
The very honey the bees work so hard to make and store?
I was STEALING IT, and SELLING IT, in exchange for what?
MORE! More bees. More equipment.
I even started making queens, and buying different types of queens, making splits, etc.
It was an endless, downward spiral. No, check that. It IS an endless downward spiral.
Sometimes it’s a discouraging fight against pests, diseases, and poisons.
Sometimes it’s a battle against humans too!
And of course, Mother nature takes her toll as well.
But I just can’t stop.
And now, at 30ish colonies, and plans for as many as a hundred by next year…
Yeah. I’m already past the third year mark, where most new beekeepers wash out.
And I’m still here. Growing. Learning. Helping. Planning. BUILDING…
So, there it is.
IF you are foolish enough to WANT to help the environment…
IF you are participating in this "fools errand" called beekeeping…and you need a hand.
IF YOU CAN’T “JUST SAY NO”…or if you don’t know where to start…
Give me a call.
I’m too far gone.
There’s no coming back for me.
I have even expanded to ‘out yards’, bought a bee truck, have feed systems built, and more.
I’ve bought and tested equipment that most new and smaller scale beekeepers CAN’T EVEN AFFORD, much less justify, such as oxalic acid sublimation tools, thermal treatment boards and more.
I have purchased used equipment that I may NEVER get around to using. And I’m ALWAYS looking for more!
Basically, I guess I’m saying…that I’m here for you.
I understand what you are going through.
I can sympathize.
And I can help.
So if you know of a business, school, or club that wants a presentation or a beehive or simply wants to sponsor or host a beehive…
Or if you know a farmer, gardener, or anyone else that either wants to start keeping bees, or wants to rent hives, or bees, and or have hives managed FOR them…
Or even if you just know someone that needs help getting started…
I’m happy to go to them, instead of having them come to me. But if they come to me, on my schedule, I don’t charge.
Of course, I’ll take donations or tips…but you know where that money goes by now, right?
Yep. More bees. More equipment. More supplies and feed.
So, feel free to send them my way.
I always appreciate referrals.
And maybe…JUST MAYBE… I can even, help them… as a MENTOR!