In the fall of 2017, my husband and I decided to become beekeepers. Actually we are not beekeepers yet. We started our hives this year, and the saying goes that you are not really a beekeeper until you get your bees through the winter. Until you do that, you are a “bee-haver” but not a “bee-keeper.” Beekeeping has been a great hobby that my husband and I can enjoy together. The bees give us quite a bit to talk about at the dinner table. Here are 10 things to consider before you take the leap and begin to keep bees.
- Getting Started Is Expensive – You will need to purchase hives, bee jacket with hood, gloves, a hive tool, a bee brush, a smoker, and bees. However, you will likely find that you need other items. You may need to purchase materials to build your hive stands. We were fortunate that we could use materials we already had. To start two hives from scratch, the cost was ~$1000. That does not include the ongoing cost of granulated sugar that we are using to feed our bees this first year to help them get through the winter.
- You Will Need to Learn A Lot – Managing a bee hive is highly enjoyable but requires a large amount of knowledge if you want to be successful. I took a 1 day course. My husband spent months watching You Tube videos and reading. We joined the local beekeeper’s association in order to network with other local beekeepers. If you think that you can place a hive in the backyard and extract honey when you want it, you will be disappointed. For us, a major part of the enjoyment has actually been all of the learning required to keep our bees healthy.
- Beekeeping Is A Time Commitment – We check the hives at least once a week, which is the recommended interval especially for new beekeepers. If you know what is happening in your hives, you can address problems before they threaten the health of your hive.
- Bees Are Not Pets – People keep asking us what we name the bees. We don’t. We love our bees and want them to do well, but beekeeping is a numbers game. Even when you are very careful, a bee or two may be crushed during a hive check. That is not a reason not to check the hives. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a few bees for the good of the hive. We had a non-egg laying queen (virgin queen) in one of our hives. We purchased another queen but had to capture and destroy the other queen before we could install the new queen. It had to be done, but my husband admitted it was a little sad for him. He had struggled so hard to keep the bees alive that he felt bad destroying one. He would have felt worse if he had given the queen a name.
- Everyone Will Ask You for Honey – Bees need the honey to survive the winter, so you can’t rob them of all of their food. Don’t get greedy when you take the honey. One beekeeper told me that you should only give small jars of honey as gifts. If you give large jars, people will always expect that much honey from you. Some years are good years, and some years are bad years. You have to manage the expectations of your friends and family.
- You Are Doing Your Part to Save the Planet – Bees are essential for pollinating crops, and it is estimated that about one third of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States depend on bees for pollination. Bee populations have been dropping at an alarming rate. Loss of habitat, pesticide use, and mites have all taken their toll on the bee population. By responsibly managing your beehives, you are helping to bolster the bee population.
- Know Why You Want to Keep Bees – A free supply of honey is not the only reason to start a beehive. In fact, if you only want honey for your personal use, it would probably be more cost effective to just purchase local honey at the farmer’s market. Do you want large quantities of honey to sell? Do you want to try to make beekeeping profitable by selling bees? Do you want to increase the rate of pollination in your garden? Are you interested in saving the planet by increasing the bee population? You may want to do all of these things. However, make sure that one of the reasons that you want to keep bees is that you actually enjoy learning about bees and nurturing them.
- You Will Get Very Hot – Spring and summer is a busy time for bees. You will need to check the hives. Because you are a new beekeeper, you will need to go into the hives weekly, and you will be wearing a bee jacket. You will sweat…profusely. If you hate the heat and don’t want to be wearing a bee jacket in the summer time, you may not want to be a beekeeper. Some experienced beekeepers don’t wear jackets or gloves, just the hood with a veil. That is great for experienced beekeepers. New beekeepers are prone to the occasional mistake like accidentally dropping a frame full of bees during a hive check. In a situation like that, you will be happy that you are wearing a bee jacket and gloves along with your hood and veil.
- You May Become Mildly Obsessed with Bees – My husband has this problem. He constantly has his head down staring at his tablet reading about bees or watching bee videos. Bees are his primary topic of conversation. Recently we went to eat with some other couple friends of ours. They told us about various major events happening in their lives…weddings, births, etc. We told them about our bees. See what I mean? Mildly obsessed.
- Beekeeping Is A Great Way to Connect with Nature – I really pay attention more to the natural world around me now that we keep bees. I study the bees that land on my flowers trying to determine if they are wild bees or if they are “our” bees. We routinely think about how the weather might be impacting the bees. I pay attention to when dandelions start to bloom, and I worry if an early frost will hurt our bees. We may be the beekeepers, but the bees teach us lots of things too.
I have learned to love bees. As a child, every summer I would receive at least 2 stings from being barefoot, so I had no appreciation of these stinging flying bees. Age has changed my mind and I love bees. They are so important to our environment. I am excited to hear about your new adventure with these tiny bees. Kathy your writing is so funny, while I am learning from your new blog. Can’t wait to hear more.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thank you for reading and commenting. I am so glad you are enjoying the posts. Doug and I are having lots of fun with this new hobby.
LikeLiked by 1 person