Beekeeping: Take Your First Steps

Beekeeping isn’t your typical hobby. You’ll be more of a caretaker than an active participant, with hundreds of bees under your protection. Yes, you will get stung, and there will be hardships, but if hardworking bees and their honey have captured your heart, then your journey into beekeeping might be inevitable.

Test the Waters

Before you go full-on beekeeper, you might want to immerse yourself a little deeper into the hobby. Books and the internet will not be enough. Join a beekeeping group or meet up with a local beekeeper. Express your desire to start the hobby and ask if you can observe or even help out. Test your resolve by getting close to the bees; you might not be afraid of a single bee, but a whole buzzing hive can be intimidating. Take time to learn about the hobby and what it takes to raise bees successfully. Fledgling beekeepers will sometimes wipe out their colonies through mismanagement, and that is a situation you want to avoid. Experienced beekeepers can tell you what works and what doesn’t — as well as local conditions that can be beneficial or detrimental to your hive. A few sessions with the bees will give you enough experience (and probably a sting or two) to decide whether you want to go forward with your beekeeping plans.

Buy a Hive

bee keeper with hives

The hive, or the wooden contraption your bees will call home, is an essential part of every beekeeping operation. It protects your bees from the elements and gives you access to their honey. Beekeeping kits will allow you to observe the comings and goings of a beehive, such as the queen laying her eggs and her workers doing their jobs. Your previous conversations with local beekeepers should give you an idea of what kind of hive works for your locality. Before buying your bees, you should have already prepared your safety equipment. Bees can be quite docile once you get them into their hives, but continually coming into contact with them (especially as a beginner) will require protective gear. A whole set will include a suit, gloves for beekeeping, and a veiled helmet (essential). It’s probably a good idea to stock up on antihistamine and one or two EpiPens — just in case of unforeseen accidents.

Honey for Everyone

You can harvest 20-60 lbs of honey a year from just a single hive. Since the average American household only consumes 2-3 lbs of honey a year, you’ll have enough honey for your family and a few of your friends. Once you’re comfortable harvesting honey, you can start moving on to harvesting bee pollen and beeswax or raising queens for your next hive. Bees keep the surrounding flora healthy as they go about harvesting pollen for their honey, improving nearby gardens and fruit trees. A local orchard or flower farm might even want to “hire” the services of your bees for pollination.

Beekeeping is a rewarding endeavor — and not just because of the honey. It is a fulfilling and interesting hobby that benefits your whole community.