Beekeeping has been a long struggle for me. I didn't come from a long line of beekeepers or have some family member or friend take me under wing and teach me everything. And while no beekeeper is entirely self-taught, it is his/her ambition to drives him/her to perform as they do, and we deserve every ounce of credit for our efforts and results. We need to respect ourselves and learn equally or more from our failures than even our greatest successes.
When I began beekeeping I started with only two hives that I bought from a local member late in year. Though I never specifically asked to be mentored, the re pore I thought I built during the purchase seemed to imply more help was on its way. In late summer I proudly did my own two splits which took two months before they were completely robbed dead during the dearth. The original hives packed away enough stores for the winter, but one failed due to dwindling populations as a result of a mouse. The next spring came and with the anticipation of spring flow, I also thought the original seller may renew some interest in helping once again. While we did do a branch swarm capture, and I did take on a trap out project, we never conversed much about actual beekeeping. We both used the same forums, and so often gleaned the same information that both shared at our club meetings, but that was about the extent of information sharing.
Matters were further complicated in that most of my club members were old, secretive, and generally not very personable. Books are generally old and not updated, and most never even mention mites, treatments, or genetics. The internet was just starting to ramp up with forums such as these. It was nice to see country wide input, but it was frequently confusing. Southerners were doing hive manipulations that would surly kill my colonies at the early spring time they were doing them.
The beacon in the dark seems to be perseverance!
Try and keep on trying.
Read, re-read, and try to look at it in a second light all together.
Try to make observations that answer the questions that trouble you most.
Read people's post, find those that provide answers, facts, and advice that reasonably makes sense.
E-mail those people, ask how they do things, be not afraid to ask.
Be not afraid to leave them if they care not to help or you feel uncomfortable with their advice.
Beekeepers in my region that were beekeepers, not whimsical hobby fakers, were many many hours away.
[I should get some nasty replies for using 'hobby fakers' but please let me explain. There are those that try and do and achieve. And then there are those that try and fail and fail and fail and blame it on perpetual testing. And when those are the same people that do not advance and improve on their successes or fail to share what they were testing for, then you know those are the 'fakers' that blame the results (usually of laziness) on testing, or fluke weather, solar flares, I think you get the idea.]
Understand, there are going to be areas of the country that good beekeepers are not going to be a local commodity. While this makes it difficult to learn and grow, it assures your spot in your market
if when you can survive. Regardless how good or poor your local community of beekeepers is, there is always something to be learned from someone (even if it is not to do things like them!). But try to make it a point to surround yourself with those that care about what you do, that share their successes so that you to can be successful, and so that you may have a good quality role model (sometimes this is more sub-conscious than anything else). Do not waste your time trying to impress others, beekeeping is scarcely a fashion show, you will quickly learn the best rewards are accomplishing things your way. Often, your operation may only function in way that you operate it. Some will say this is a grace provided to you by god, others will scoff and say its merely shoe string luck (but trust me, you will know in your heart which it is).
So while mentors may fail, the prodigy in you will succeed so long as you try to learn and do.
This advice is not a quote from a book, one that arm chair beekeepers will falsely reference and then another will argue about its validity, only to waste everyone's time because it doesn't even apply. Its an absolute truth that will burn in your heart and drive your soul pass the day that your hives are half dead outs from freak cold or come up missing from a senseless robbery or damaged in an act of vandalism. Perseverance will prevail, and as an accomplished beekeeper, only you will understand and respect the results that are the true reward.
I wish you all the best beekeeping season in the up coming year. May all of us learn and apply the best beekeeping knowledge we can, for the benefit of bees and of our friends and families. Take a moment of your time and call a fellow beekeeper and see how the season is going, or maybe a few minutes of your day to type out a really complete answer to a question on the forum. I am always surprised just how deeply a little effort impacts a persons ambition and achievement.