- You may have been considering dipping your finger into the honey-sweet world of beekeeping. It seems satisfying and sensible, but it can definitely feel a little overwhelming. Where do you start?
What do you need? Where do you even get bees from? This article will help answer questions you may have about beekeeping for beginners. It will also arm you with some basic knowledge to start on your way to becoming an apt beekeeper.
What is Beekeeping?
Beekeeping is the art of looking after bees and their hives. Beekeepers maintain hives, collect honey, and keep watch over our furry little-winged friends.
Why Do People Start Beekeeping?
Beekeeping is a hobby that is both immensely satisfying and beneficial. Enjoy your own honey while knowing you are contributing to nature. Learn while saving money. Bask in the pleasure of a full and vibrant garden. Whether you live in the city or out in the country, beekeeping is a hobby that anyone can enjoy.
Honey and Other Bee Products
Most of North America's honey is heavily processed. The FDA states that any product that has been ultra-filtered and doesn't contain any pollen isn't honey, but many of these tests can be circumvented. Independent studies performed by Food Safety News have uncovered an alarming number of companies that had no traces of pollen in their 'honey' whatsoever. Beekeeping will enable you to produce your very own 100% natural honey that not only tastes better, but is better for you.
But it's not just honey that comes from having bees; you can also collect propolis, honeycomb, and beeswax.
Honey is an amazing food and has been recognized for its health benefits for centuries. It contains minerals and vitamins that help the metabolism get rid of fatty acids and cholesterol on organs and tissues.
The propolis can also be used and has many health benefits, such as anti-bacterial properties, and allergy relief.
Lending A Hand To Mother Nature
Bees increase pollination in your yard and gardens. This results in a larger yield from fruit trees, berry bushes, vegetables, and flowers in general.
Bee populations around the world are in decline, and it's not hard to imagine how devastating this could be on our planet and way of life if bees disappeared. No more fruit. No more vegetables. No more flowers. Beekeeping helps combat population decline by increasing overall bee numbers. In short, the more bees, the better.
The cost of honey has risen considerably over the past several years. Not only will keeping bees help save you money, but can also provide a little extra cash for your pocket if you choose to start selling your honey.
Also, by generating a larger yield of fruit and vegetables, you will save money on that front, too.
Beekeeping will keep on surprising you, even after years of practicing the craft. You are constantly learning and honing your skills as a beekeeper. Renowned beekeeper Brother Adam (1898 - 1996) was still learning after 70 years of beekeeping.
Beekeeping for Beginners
Beekeeping for beginners is easy. A lot of people get put off by how utterly foreign it seems to anything else they've ever done, or about the idea of having a swarm of bees buzzing around their backyard, but once you learn the ropes, it's a breeze. Here are a few handy tips to get you on your way.
Read, Read, Read
Firstly, pick up a couple of books on beekeeping for beginners. Your public library should have some books available; you can go to your local bookstore, or shop online (bookdepository.com offers free world-wide shipping).
The more you read, the more you will learn. Knowledge is power. Plus, having a few books on beekeeping handy will provide you with easy reference material. You'll find yourself going back to them again and again.
You will learn all about the three main bee types (drone, worker, and queen), about different hives and how to set them up, and how to harvest your honey.
Join Your Local Beekeepers Club or Association
An inexhaustible fount of knowledge and experience, your local beekeeper's club is well-worth joining. There, you will be face-to-face with other beekeepers, both novice, and seasoned apiarists. These communities will be there to help with any questions or problems you may have. They also may very well have equipment for sale, or can steer you in the right direction when ready to purchase. Which leads us to our next tip...
This is where your bees will live, work, and reproduce. There are several different types of hives available, but they all work on the same principle. The Langstroth hive is the classic-looking hive made from stacked boxes with frames that the bees create honeycomb on.
The bees nest at the bottom, and form honey in the top stacks. The Top-Bar hive is a popular backyard choice, as they are light and easy to work with and do not have pre-made frames. The Warre hive is a combination of the Langstroth and Top-Bar hive styles.
What you will use to soothe the bees to gain access to the hive and collect honey or check on your bees. The smoke calms the bees by masking alarm pheremones, and sets them into 'fire drill mode'.
Thinking their hive is on fire, the bees to prepare to go out and find a new home, therefore letting you go about your business uninterrupted. A reliable smoker is essential, as it's the main means of control for the beekeeper. The bigger the smoker's chamber, the more oxygen gets to the smoking material, which means less chance for the smoldering to go out.
Used to aid in the dismantling of hives, and the scraping of excess comb and propolis from hive parts. The hive tool generally has one end meant to pry open the bee boxes, and the other end is used to scrape the frames.
Veil and Suit
A veil protects your face, neck, and head from the bees, and the suit protects your body. They usually come in white, as a bee's natural predators are generally darker in color (i.e.: mammals, reptiles, birds), so with a white suit, you have less chance of upsetting the colony. Suits come in a range of styles and sizes. They even come in kid's sizes!
Protect your hands from potential beestings. It's advisable to get the best quality of gloves you can find. Though, generally, the more sting-proof the glove, the more clumsy they are to use.
When To Start
It's best to populate your hives in the spring. Bees can be bought from breeders or apiaries, or you can try to lure a natural swarm yourself. With beekeeping gaining worldwide popularity, it's advised to start looking ahead of time to purchase.
Bees really aren't much of a bother. You can easily direct their flight path by placing a small hedge or fence near the hive entrance, as this causes the bees to fly up, and out of the way.
Some Bee FAQs
Q: Will My Bees Sting Me?
A: You're not going to be able to completely avoid getting stung. But you can take steps to minimize it by using protective gear and learning about the behavior of bees. Remember to be gentle!
Q: How Much Will It Cost To Get Set Up?
A: You can purchase a beginner kit and some bees for less than $500. Or you can go the DIY route and create your own hive, for which there are many guides online.
Q: How Much Honey Will I Harvest?
A: A hive of bees will produce anywhere from an average of 20 to 60 pounds of honey per year.
Q: How Dangerous Is It?
A: Statistics show that you're more likely to be killed by lightning than from bee stings.
Q: How Many Bees Are In A Colony?
A: Anywhere between 10,000 to 80,000 bees.
Q: How Far Away Will My Bees Fly?
A: Bees only fly as far as they need, but that may be 5 to 10 miles from the hive.
Q: What Do The Queen, Worker, And Drone Do?
A: The queen is the mother of most of the hive, and the boss. It's her job to lay the eggs and to regulate the unity of the colony by producing chemical scents. The drone's job is to mate with the queen. Worker bees do everything not related to reproduction and are all female.
Beekeeping for beginners is a fun and rewarding hobby for the whole family. The benefits of becoming a beekeeper are numerous, not only personally, but for the environment as a whole.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by learning the craft of beekeeping. It's relatively simple to start, and incredibly rewarding to maintain.