Beekeeping forums are intimidating, but they are also a wealth of information for new beekeepers. Sometimes an innocent question devolves into personal insults or spirals into an out of control debate you can barely comprehend. So, how can you best access this knowledge and get your questions answered without embarrassment, harassment or irrelevant ramblings? I asked Michael Bush (who answers an unquantifiable number of questions from new beekeepers on forums every day) to share some guidelines.
Here’s what Michael had to say about posting on forums, but I’d like to point out that some of his advice could easily apply to emails and social media. Read on to find out how to improve the answers you get and your experience on the beekeeping forums.
1) Pick an informative subject line.
No one has time to read all the posts and if your subject line doesn’t catch the attention of those who would be interested in that subject you will miss your best responses. Lines like “Question” or “Why” are far too vague. One like “question about crowded hive trying to swarm” or “question about feeding a weak hive” or “why are they hanging on the front of the hive?” will narrow it down a bit so that those interested will participate.
2) Pick the right forum.
If it’s a top bar question put it in the top bar forum. Those not interested in top bars then can easily ignore it and you can hopefully filter out those are simply against whatever it is you’re interested in (top bars, treatment free etc.)
BLUF stands for: Bottom Line Up Front. Ask your question(s) first. Then if you think you have relevant information to help, add that starting with what you think is most relevant and working to the less likely issues. Put each issue in its own paragraph or bullet point. That way if someone is reading it they can skim the rest of it for the clues they needed and skip the irrelevant parts.
If you have three paragraphs of seemingly irrelevant information which finally culminates in a simple question there is a good chance the reader will lose interest before they get to the end and just move on to another post. If the reader knows the question, then they have an idea what to skip and what questions they need answered in order to diagnose an issue.
3) Include relevant information.
Do try to put in what is relevant (time of year, your climate or location, exact number of days, recent manipulations etc.), but don’t bury the reader in irrelevant information. Think about what is relevant.
Most questions about things like feeding and queens are not tied to the size of the box unless you are putting things in those terms. For example you are saying you have x number of frames of capped honey, then it might matter if they are shallow, medium or deep frames. But if you’re asking a question about how long it takes a queen to be mated, it doesn’t matter what size boxes you have so don’t distract people with that information.
4) Consider the answering beekeeper.
When assessing responses, put the answers in the context of the type of beekeeper (commercial, hobby etc.) and the years of experience and compatible philosophy (scientific, organic etc.). e.g. for a commercial beekeeper any talk of salvaging a laying worker hive is just a waste of time. But for a hobbyist with two hives it’s important to try to save it.
5) Stay on topic.
When answering posts try to address the specific questions. Try to ignore any subtext of rudeness or insults and stay on topic. You can disagree with people, but you don’t need to be rude in return or rude in order to disagree. Try to stay away from blanket statements like “this is the way it is” rather say “this is what I have observed”. Just because someone has different observations does not make them wrong. Bees are very adaptable creatures and sometimes they act very differently based on small differences in climate and conditions. Odds are their observations are correct in their situation and yours are correct in yours.
6) Don’t feed the trolls.
If someone presents a point where you think your position now needs to be clarified or that point addressed, then do, but once you’ve said what you have to say and they are just repeating themselves, let it go. When they are just egging people on, just ignore them. If someone is being rude they don’t deserve a response.
Michael Bush is the author of The Practical Beekeeper. He is active on many of the Beekeeping forums with last count at about 45,000 posts between all of them. He hosts a “Bee Camp” each spring at his farm in Nebraska.