People are becoming more and more aware that the bees on the planet are in trouble. Honeybees in particular are dying off at an alarming rate. Thankfully many people want to help, and some might be considering getting a few hives of their own. But how do you start beekeeping?
There are many things to consider if you’d like to become a beekeeper. You’ll want to be clear on your reasons for keeping bees and any goals and expectations you have going in. You’ll need to examine the physical space you have available for the hives and determine what equipment you’ll need.
As a novice beekeeper, you will definitely need support, not only from family and nearby neighbors but professionals who can guide your efforts. Finally, anyone who wants to start beekeeping needs to understand the commitment involved. We will discuss all these topics in detail in this article.
Why Do You Want to Start Beekeeping?
Beekeeping can be very rewarding, even as a hobbyist, but it is not an activity to be entered into lightly. When considering becoming a beekeeper, it is important to examine your reasons and goals to be sure they are sound and realistic for your situation. Even small scale beekeeping requires time, money, and energy.
If your primary motivation is to help save the bees, is that motivation strong enough to carry you through? If you are new to beekeeping, there will be a lot to learn. There will be money to invest in your hive, equipment, and getting the bees themselves. And there will be difficulties to face. Are you up for these challenges?
If so, you will be greatly rewarded if you start beekeeping. Besides knowing you are making a positive difference for our planet and its pollinators, you will be able to harvest your own honey and some beeswax. Won’t your friends be impressed when you offer them some honey produced by your very own bees? You bet they will!
Consider Your Space
If you’re going to start keeping bees, obviously you need to have the proper space for your hives. Ideally you will want to keep your beehives some distance from the busiest areas of your yard. This will allow your bees to remain undisturbed by human activity. It will also make most visitors to your yard a lot more comfortable!
You will also want to be considerate of your neighbors. Bees are coming and going constantly during warm weather, and most people will not appreciate having your honeybees buzzing by them every time they try to enjoy their own backyard. Be especially mindful if there are small children, pets, or elderly residents in the next yard who might suffer ill effects from bee stings.
If you’re planning to start beekeeping in your yard, the best thing is to talk to your neighbors openly about your plans. Help them understand the importance of what you’re doing. Assure them of the precautions you will take to ensure no one will be bothered or harmed by your bees. Let them ask questions and be open to their concerns. Open communication will help ensure no one will complain about or try to make you get rid of your hives after you’ve already invested in them.
Another thing to consider is whether your space has adequate sun and shade for your beehives. Depending on the climate, your bees may require a lot of direct sun for the warmth (in colder locations) or may need to be partially shaded (in hotter climates). Keep in mind that the trajectory and intensity of the sun will change throughout the year, so be prepared in advance to move your hives back into the sun or shade as necessary.
Finally, while it’s not a requirement to start beekeeping, providing bee-friendly flowers and plants as well as a water source will go a long way in supporting your bees. You can click here to find some ideas for creating a bee-friendly habitat. The more bee-friendly your space, the more success you will have when you start beekeeping.
Acquire Needed Equipment
Beekeeping, like most hobbies, requires some specialized equipment. At minimum, you will need to have the following items before you start beekeeping:
- Hive Boxes
- Beekeeping Suit
- Beekeeping Gloves
- Bee Smoker
- Hive Tool
You will also need to acquire a colony of bees. While honeybees can be lured to your hive box naturally, this is a hit or miss method that may not prove successful. You can purchase your bees from an apiarist, or you might reach out to a bee removal service to see if they offer to relocate honeybees into hive boxes. Honeybees are protected from extermination in many areas, so removal companies need relocation options. You might be able to populate your hive box for a minimal fee or even for free through this method.
You might also want to invest in at least one good resource book about beekeeping. Although there’s plenty of information to be found online, having a hand-held reference can be an invaluable if you have questions or run into trouble while inspecting your hives. Look for a book with large, clear pictures that can assist you quickly when you’re working with your bees.
If you want to start beekeeping, it’s best to line up support before diving in. Since beekeeping requires time, money, and space in your yard, you will definitely want to have the support of your family before you begin. And, as mentioned earlier, you’ll also want to do your best to get your neighbors on board if their yards are in close proximity to yours. Even if no one else shares your enthusiasm for beekeeping, you at least want to be sure no one is going to actively oppose your new hobby once you get going with it.
Once you have the support of family and neighbors, you’ll also want to seek out “professional” support from other beekeepers. Most areas have Beekeeping Associations that hold informational meetings once or twice a month. There may be a membership fee required to join your local association, but these are usually minimal and well worth the cost for the information and support one receives in return.
If you don’t want to join an association, you can look for informal beekeeping groups in your area. You can search for a group online through meetup.com, or you might inquire at your local library or beekeeping supply outlet. Backyard beekeepers tend to be a friendly, supportive bunch who want the best for the environment and their bees. So don’t be surprised if you find your life buzzing with new human friends once you’ve brought home your bee friends!
Understand the Commitment
Becoming a backyard beekeeper in order to help save the bees is a noble thing. There is no doubt that hobbyist beekeepers are beginning to play a vital role in the support and preservation of our planet’s pollinators. But before you start beekeeping, be sure you are okay with the commitment involved.
Once you take on a hive, you take on a responsibility. The bees you bring to your yard will be looking to you to look out for them. Sure, they do most of their work on their own, and they won’t acknowledge your contributions like a dog or cat might. But they definitely will need you.
There will be predators to ward off. There will be weather and seasonal changes to deal with and a bee-friendly environment to maintain. The colony may even need you to provide them with a new queen if something happens to the one they have. Although bees may not require daily care, they will require active monitoring and regular inspection.
A diligent beekeeper will be a successful beekeeper. Be sure you are committed to being successful before you start beekeeping. It’s the best way to ensure that you and your bees will be happy.
There’s no doubt that the bees need enthusiastic keepers more than ever. If you start beekeeping, you will be directly supporting a colony of bees, but you will, in truth, be helping our entire planet. And while beekeeping does require commitment of time and resource, the rewards are, literally, very sweet.
Do you have a story about how you started beekeeping? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Please leave your comments or questions below.