Enjoy the many benefits of beekeeping!
We’ve all seen those unmistakable white stacked boxes in a field or yard while driving through the country. Full of honeybees, those boxes and the specialized work involved may have seemed interesting, but part of a job that you felt was too complicated, time-consuming, or dangerous. But actually, beekeeping – which is one of the world’s oldest occupations – is a relatively easy activity, inexpensive after the initial investment of supplies, and vastly rewarding to beekeepers. Plus you’ll be enjoying your own local honey made on your own property!
According to Grange Co-op’s bee expert, Hazel Thomas, “Honey beekeeping is a great hobby for people. It’s rewarding, interesting, and not very expensive. It’s a good value and very economical. After you’ve invested, then you’ve got your kit and you’re good to go. You can leave the hives alone for two to three weeks at a time without worrying about them needing attention.”
Having a honeybee apiary, which is the entire habitat where beehives are kept, can be a wonderful addition to your life as honeybees supply tasty and beneficial honey, and they naturally pollinate your vegetables, flowers, garden plants and trees.But before jumping into the beekeeping hobby, you should consider both the benefits and considerations of having your own bees.
- Honey made locally from your own bees. The benefits of honey are many, starting with the fact that it is an excellent natural sweetener full of nutrients including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Also, it doesn’t spoil, and can be used for a variety of health benefits, such as soothing coughs, boosting memory, treating wounds, potentially preventing low white blood cell count caused by chemotherapy, relieving seasonal allergies, killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, providing fuel for the body, and resolving scalp problems and dandruff.
- Wax, a product of bees. You can utilize the wax made in your hive for candles, cosmetics, creams, lipstick, and lip balm.
- Pollination. Bees can help make your plants healthy as they pollinate, as well as fruit trees in nearby orchards which helps the local economy!
- Low maintenance. Bees work hard without much effort from you. Once your hive is up and running, it takes about 30 minutes a week for maintenance, and a bit more time for collecting honey up to twice a year.
- Rewarding experience. Being part of a natural life process in which honeybees pollinate flowers and plants and create beneficial honey is deeply gratifying!
- Bee conservation. There are many factors that are killing honeybees, and by keeping your own hives you can help conserve bees and protect their habitat.
Sounds pretty wonderful, right? Yes, it is. But there are also some considerations to beekeeping that everyone should be aware of before jumping into the hobby.
- Start-up costs. Once you’re up and running, beekeeping is a very inexpensive way to enjoy the many benefits honeybees bring. However, there are some supplies you will need to get started. These include a hive, protective clothing, a smoker, supplies, possibly extracting equipment and bees!
- Getting a bee sting. If you or others in your family are allergic to bee stings, it’s not recommended to keep bees. If you aren’t allergic, bee stings can still hurt, although you’re likely to develop immunity to the poison.
- Heavy lifting. A full super, which is the box of frames used for honey production, can weigh 30 to 70 pounds. You will be lifting this out of the hive to remove the honey.
- Bees can cause a mess. As they fly from the hive to their food source, bees will defecate which can stain or leave spots items below the ground – such as cars, windows, or outside furniture.
- First year blues. Don’t expect to harvest any honey the first year as you are starting out. According to Hazel, “Usually you can’t harvest the first year because the bees will need to keep and eat all of the honey they make as they set up house. It’s very important to leave enough honey so bees have enough food for themselves. They gather the nectar to make honey because they need it as their food supply. We are basically taking that food, and if you take too much they will starve. A responsible beekeeper will always make sure that they are leaving enough honey for the hive to make it through winter when there is no food available.”
Now that you know the good and bad, here is more about what you need to know to start keeping bees. This First Lessons in Beekeeping book will help get your started in this rewarding hobby.
- Beekeeping: Getting Started (Video)
- Shop Grange Co-op for all your beekeeping supplies!
- The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping
- Collecting Honey Bees & Honey
- Backyard Beekeeping Main page