Beekeeping is a popular practice that is continuing to rise as the bee population declines. For years, honey was the major motivator for beekeeping. It was the only way to produce succulent sweetener for food and drinks — that is, until the discovery of cane sugar came along. However, there are more benefits to beekeeping than just the sweet reward of honey. From nourishing your garden to working as a therapeutic area to relieve stress, it has a significant amount of benefits! People (just like yourself) have learned the basics of beekeeping and are now using it as a thrilling and fascinating hobby, while others use the practice to bring in additional income while having fun.
Let’s begin with learning what beekeeping entails and how you can start breeding bees and extracting honey successfully!
What is Beekeeping?
- Beekeeping—is the practice of managing honey bee colonies.
- Beekeeper—is the person who maintains the hives and extracts the honey.
Venturing in beekeeping is exciting, but it does take hard work! Just like any other job, beekeeping can take up to 40 hours of your time each week. If you’re thinking that taking care of bees could not possibly take that much of your time, you might want to look at the bigger picture. Additional responsibilities include basic hive inspection, disassembling and reassembling your beehive, extracting honey, and interaction with the bees. That’s right, bond with your bees! Much like any pet, you should check on the health of your bees and become familiar with their movement and normal behaviors. It is important for you to record any irregular behavior and provide your bees with the proper medication if they need to be treated.
If you take care of your hive and your honey bees, you can expect 40-60 pounds of honey within the second year and never look to store bought honey ever again! It is important to us that you get the right information about beekeeping, so here are 7 simple steps you can take to begin your new journey into beekeeping!
Step 1: Read About Beekeeping
Just like when you buy a more typical house pet, you have to learn how to take care of your bees and everything they need in order to maintain a healthy life. Determine if you can afford beekeeping. You don’t want to buy a package of bees and then soon figure out that you don’t have enough money to buy all of the necessary equipment. Beekeeping requires more education and understanding than actual hands-on work. Make sure you have the space and that the ground you plan on placing your hive on is level. Find a mentor or someone who has years of beekeeping experience under their belt, just in case you come across any spur of the moment questions or concerns. There are also beginner classes for beekeeping and/or books to help expand your knowledge about beekeeping even further. No matter how eager you are to jump into protective gear and begin breeding bees, you must get smart before you start!
Step 2: Check with Family, Neighbors, and the Law
Check with your family and anyone else (including pets!) living in the same household as you to ensure no one or yourself has a severe allergic reaction to bee stings. It doesn’t happen as often as you would think, but beekeepers occasionally do get stung — it comes with the sport! Although this isn’t required, it is recommended you confirm with neighbors that they too carry no serious reactions to bee stings. If not, at least give them a heads up as to what you plan on doing and where. Most importantly, check with your state and local laws! Some states require you to register the location of your beehive(s) and will provide you with specific guidelines you must follow to avoid getting stung by the law.
Step 3: Determine your Reason for Beekeeping
It’s important to determine your reason for beekeeping and choose a beehive that fits that reason the best. Don’t feel limited, you can pick more than one! There are different beehive plans available, so let’s take a look at the three most popular reasons for beekeeping.
- A hive for gardening—the primary reason for breeding bees is to pollinate your flowers and create a flourishing garden.
- A hive for observing—the primary reason for breeding bees is to observe their movement and study the behavior of bees.
- A hive for harvesting—the primary reason for breeding bees is to harvest natural honey and/or beeswax.
Once you determine your needs, you are on your way to purchasing the equipment!
Step 4: Purchase a Beekeeping Starter Kit
It is recommended buying a beekeeping starter kit to begin your journey into your newfound hobby. The more you find yourself enjoying and learning about the process of beekeeping, the easier it will be to determine which changes you can make to your equipment that will benefit the beehive most. However, starter kits come with equipment that can last years if well taken care of.
The Basic Beekeeping Equipment
- Hive tool
- Frames and foundation
- Bee hive components
- Hive body
- Hive stand
- Queen excluder
- Inner/Outer cover
- Honey supers
The Extracting Equipment
- Cotton/Poly coverall with attached zipper veil
- Mesh helmet
- Vented leather gloves
Step 5: Pick an Apiary Site
Take some time and pick an apiary site very carefully! Know your hive’s surrounding flowers (which shouldn’t be more than a mile away), as they can affect the flavor of the honey and can help improve the production of honey. Make sure sources of fresh water (which shouldn’t be more than a quarter mile away) are available. The fresh water doesn’t have to come from a nearby lake or creek. You can always have fresh water available by placing a tub or large bowl of water within the required distance. Bees also love plenty of sunshine! This enables them to easily find the queen and see eggs within the hive.
Most importantly, make sure there is solid fencing between the hives and property lines. You don’t want just anyone to have access to your beehive, especially children. Also remember to only breed the amount of bees your acreage can hold. It is recommended to have no more than four beehives on a quarter acre or less.
Step 6: Choose a Honey bee
You’re getting close! You have read up on the requirements for beekeeping, gotten your hands on all the equipment, and assembled a beehive to place in the perfect apiary site. Now it’s time to make the big decision by selecting the right type of bee for you. Each bee is unique and delivers various benefits to your beehive. For this step, you may want to take some time to read about the pros and cons of potential bee types you are interested in. Do you want the popular Italian bees which produce a substantial amount of nectar in a short amount of time? Or what about Caucasian bees which are known to be the gentlest of most bee colonies out there? Maybe you live in an area with climatic conditions so you would prefer dark Carniolan bees. There are quite a few different bee races, so do your research and shop around a bit.
There are four major characteristics you want to consider when choosing a honey bee:
- Productivity rate
- Disease tolerance
Keep all of these characteristics in mind when shopping for your bees and you will find the perfect race fit for you. Don’t forget! This step includes purchasing the almighty queen bee to begin the breeding process.
Step 7: Get Started!
You are now ready! After installing your package of bees into your new hive, you can take a day or two to relax. After all, you deserve it! Most beekeepers recommend you re-open the beehive in two to three days after installing your bees. Check to make sure the queen bee has successfully left the cage and is released into your hive. Especially during the beginning stages of beekeeping, don’t forget to feed, feed, and feed your bees some more. You’ve done the research and have everything you need to get started, so good luck and have fun!
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