With the forecast not warming up in the future, I am forced to ask myself why why why do I pay attention to the Beekeeping boards on Facebook? It’s not like I’m obsessed, but admittedly I can’t help but pay attention when a post comes up and to read the comments and/or advice from other beekeepers. Sometimes it’s because I’m curious and want to learn, (which I’m discovering is RARELY the result) but mostly it’s because it’s a train wreck. What I do learn instead is a VERY interesting study on society.
It seems that at some point in this beekeeping journey you become an expert, or at least convince yourself you are. This is a very dangerous category to be in for your own learning capacity and others. You can spot these folks a mile away because they are so proud of the facts they’ve memorized and so eager to tell you how wonderful they are and exactly what you are doing wrong. Facebook has given these “experts” a podium. I’ve observed that if you state your opinion with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY…you must be correct!!!!. After all beekeeping is sexy and since none of us can really know what we are doing with 100% certainty we are all desperate for that nugget of information that will absolutely GURANTEE your bees will survive. Maybe it’s winter, maybe it’s mites, maybe it’s a pesticide, someone out there will claim they know the secret. The absolute best part is in order to be an expert is you don’t need a resume – you don’t need to cite a credible source – or if you do, your source can just be some internet sensation who paid for a bunch of “likes” or conned you into some group they manage…they don’t have to actually know anything…just be extremely popular. I mean they must KNOW what they are talking about if they are popular. It’s what makes the world go round. Oh – and they say it with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY.
It seems Beekeeping on Facebook is taking on a sort of religious context and I assure you it’s fascinating – not in any factual context that is actually meaningful in keeping bees, but it is interesting to see how people work so very hard in a completely different arena of their lives and are “successful”. They focus more on marketing something they don’t actually have, or maybe they do have it but it’s charisma, not actual bee knowledge. I look back at my admittedly short beekeeping career. The amount of money I’ve spent. The amount of bees I’ve killed. The amount of bees that lived. What went right and what went wrong. The conferences – the money I’ve spent going from bee club to bee club – listening to the same speaker over and over again hoping to retain something from their actual expertise that didn’t register before. The travel, the money, the subscriptions to magazines, the politics and back stabbing I’ve put up with in clubs thinking I’d actually learn something from bee organizations by being an officer. Fun fact - turns out you actually spend most of your time running the organization and dealing with opposing personalities than learning anything about bees. Those truly are thankless jobs.
On Facebook the work goes into paying for likes for your page, becoming popular. Did someone run some sort of successful “Go Fund Me” or some other fundraising tool? Does that make them qualified to give me advice on bees?” Personally I just have to look at the Flo-hive to answer that question and even some “celebrity beekeepers” who give contradictory advice to just about any scientific study out there. We deal with the impact of the advice from these people all the time. It may be in the form of a replacement queen or a nuc in the spring.
I know how the winter of 2017 hit my apiaries. Hard. And I'm willing to say so, because I know that I don't know it all and I'll never learn if I think I do. But when I see some these inline sensations, well you'd think they never lost a hive.
There’s that Bee Journal on the corner of my desk, still not read. Full of cites from scientists and bee experts. Instead I chose to spend the evening debating on Facebook whether or not the crystals in some beekeepers dead out were crystalized honey or mite poo. The conversation got somewhat heated and some chose to leave it. The reason for the heat? People claiming they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was mite feces, but had absolutely no scientific data to back up the very obviously incorrect claim. One person actually suggested that since the majority of comments were in fact pro mite poo and con crystalized honey that by popular vote they must be correct. Facebook is a place where you can vote on facts.
Did I learn anything? Not actually. I'm not even close to being a better beekeeper or even teacher from it. I am however frustrated at how beekeepers reacted to the request for actual facts and the unerring confidence that they could not be wrong, they had said it after all....WITH CONVICTION!
Tomorrow evening I think I'll get to that unread Bee Journal, after all it’s April in Ohio and expected to snow. The citations and verifiable science will help me much more than engaging in a debate with Facebook experts. I think that would be a better use of time.