Is Beekeeping for You?
I like the idea of keeping bees. I want the benefit of fresh unfiltered honey and pollinators for my garden. There is a small problem I’m kind of afraid of bees! And so I ask myself – is beekeeping for you?
I attended a local beekeeping 101 class last weekend to help me understand what I might be getting myself into and to help me decide if I have the guts to be a beekeeper.
Why Do You Want To Keep Honey Bees?
You might be considering beekeeping for one, or all, of these reasons. I learned that it is important to know what your purposes are ahead of time so you can make the best choices about the type of bees you have and the environment you keep them in.
- You want to “Save the Bees”
- You want to have your own honey
- You want the benefits of natural health remedies
- You want an independent food supply
- You make natural beauty products
- You are looking for pollinators for your property
- You are looking for an awesome hobby
What Else Do You Need to Consider?
The decision to keep bees should not be taken lightly and there is much to consider.
Can you afford the start up costs? These can be considerable, at least $500 for one hive and up to $900 for two hives the first year. This includes all supplies and the starter bees.
A budget might be in order. New England Beekeeping has a page to help you estimate costs. You can also get on the local swarm list and save some funds, but you might want to have your mentor handy to help.
Do you have or can you create a water source? Honey bees need fresh water to do their honey magic. A creek or stream is not necessary. Many beekeepers keep a “garden” of moss that is watered daily so bees will have access to the water they need.
Are there any local laws about keeping bees? Each municipality is different, so contact city hall and find out the rules.
Educate your neighbors about the benefits of honey bees and encourage them to go “no pesticide spray.” Any pesticides put on your neighbor’s yard could potentially be brought back to your hive. Some neighbors might be apprehensive so remember, sharing your honey will go a long way!
Is there Room?
Do you have room for a hive in your yard? Each hive needs about 10 square feet around it and a clear path for your bees to fly. You don’t want to be constantly walking through their fight path.
Do you have something to feed them? I keep my garden as organic as possible, so honey bees can find a good home here. Growing organic is going to be key to keeping them healthy. Some crops they pollinate include Almonds, apples, cantaloupe, peaches, strawberries, cherries, pears, watermelon, blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, blueberry, cucumber, soybean and all kinds of flowers.
If you can grow enough crops and flowers to keep them in your yard – even better. Check out our post attracting pollinators and create a bee friendly garden.
Can you find a mentor? It’s great if you have someone close who is available when you have questions. The ability to watch how another hive is managed will be key to your success. Check out and join a local beekeeping association, join and online group or take a workshop. My teacher attended a
Many local beekeeping chapters have a day-long class, called bee school, that will teach you everything you need to know. See if there is something similar in your area.
Afraid or Allergic?
Are you afraid of or allergic to bees? Most beekeepers admit to being a bit afraid when they first get started, but after time you will be able to handle them with confidence. Some even say that you can go mostly without protection. That’s encouraging but not something I would try!
“It’s intense to open a hive and stand in a cloud of somewhat aggravated insects ready to put the hurt on you. Beekeeping is not for the faint of heart. It’s like the extreme sport of animal husbandry” Alethea Morrison in Homegrown Honey Bees
Have the Time
Do you have the time needed to maintain it properly? At first, when you are learning you will observe your hives daily. To learn to do beekeeping well, it takes time. You will spend upwards of 30 hours that first year. You’ll need to research, discuss and study both the bees and information on how to best manage them. So, figure a minimum of 15-30 hours per hive that first year, knowing that as your interest in and desire to do it well grows, that may easily turn into a couple hundred hours a year counting time at bee meetings, talking with others, studying and researching, thinking about bees, and watching them. The San Francisco Beekeepers’ Association says to figure 30 minutes per hive per week, and 2 hours per hive twice a year to extract honey.
So, figure a minimum of 15-30 hours per hive that first year, knowing that as your interest in and desire to do it well grows, that may easily turn into a couple hundred hours a year counting time at bee meetings, talking with others, studying and researching, thinking about bees, and watching them. The San Francisco Beekeepers’ Association says to figure 30 minutes per hive per week, and 2 hours per hive twice a year to extract honey.
The San Francisco Beekeepers’ Association says to figure 30 minutes per hive per week, and 2 hours per hive twice a year to extract honey.
Is beekeeping for you? I encourage you to find a local beekeeping chapter and find out. The benefits of raw and processed honey are many. It boosts the immune system, acts as an antibiotic for wound care, provides antioxidants, aids digestion, moisturizes the skin and soothes sore throats. It may very well be a pastime worth learning!
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