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Even the most experienced beekeeper needs somebody to mull over their problems with, and sometimes they need some serious help with their bees due to unforeseen personal circumstances. This is where SWHB’s system of mentoring and buddying comes into play.

The most important thing to remember is the person that owns the bees also owns the problem with those bees – their bees, their job to try to work out what to do if something seems amiss. Working out what to do is all part of the quite steep learning curve that comes with being a new beekeeper, and that’s where the rest of the club steps in to help, by offering ears and eyes and ideas and, where needed, hands-on help and support.

A ‘mentor’ is more often a beekeeper with a fair bit of experience, who is also open to new and innovative ideas. They’re able to chat and listen over the phone and help talk through a problem, sometimes helping out at the apiary if they’ve got time, but a mentor will never tell another beekeeper exactly what they must do, and when. They will never say, “I’m coming to your apiary on Saturday and were doing this thing with your bees.” – that’d be wrong because it’d be taking over.

A ‘bee buddy’ is more like a beekeeping friend. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been keeping bees and, sometimes, the best bee buddies will be from within the same starter group. You share your highs and lows and talk through what you can do to solve a problem, researching solutions yourselves and working out action plans. A bee buddy might also be an apiary buddy.

Both mentors and bee buddies might be able to step in and keep an eye on your bees if you can’t be there for any reason, perhaps due to unusual work commitments, family problems, illness, or a special holiday.

Within SWHB every committee member is available over the phone – but maybe best not call when they’re busy with their day jobs. Their numbers and email addresses are on the membership cards.