The popularity of beekeeping has been increasing in recent years as health enthusiasts proclaim the benefits of honey and researchers have begun to drive home the vital role that beloved bees play in maintaining balance in our ever-changing world. It is said that a third of the foods we eat rely on bee pollination. If you are looking into a new venture with the goal of attaining raw honey or beeswax, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that beekeeping offers a stimulating pastime that benefits your pocketbook while also helping to sustain our planet's ecosystems. The best part of beekeeping is that bees take care of themselves for the most part and only require minimal tending to, since they will find all food and water on their own and even repair their own roofs. No need to spend countless hours researching how to raise honey bees as you did when you brought home your first pet.
Before Getting Started
Be sure to do some research into local ordinances and restrictions in your area, rural or urban. While some urban areas allow for bee colonies, others do not.
Ensure you have a good location for the hive. Do you live in an area with nectar- and pollen-producing flowers and plants available to the bees? Bees feed their hive with the pollen contained in everything from grasses and trees to herbs, flowers and weeds. Your bees will leave every day to gather pollen, traveling great distances each day, but it is ideal to have varied gardens in close proximity. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have an area with lots of shade?
- Do you have an area with little or no wind?
- How do your neighbors feel about this idea?
Prepare before the bees come home. If your backyard doesn't already have a fence or treeline, it can be helpful to add one. The fence should be wood and stand about 8 feet tall for the purpose of forcing the bees to fly above it, which prevents them from bumping into passersby and stinging them. Avoid having the bees' flight path intersect with your walking paths. Home & Area Requirements:
- Water – Place wood chips in the water container to keep bees from drowning.
- Mild to moderate sun exposure.
- A low-wind area positioned against a fence or tree line.
- Hive – You can purchase a beginner beekeeping kit here that contains much of what you will need to get started: a 10-frame Langstroth hive with frames and foundation installed, gloves, veil, smoker, smoker fuel, bee brush, hive tool, frame feeder and the book "Beekeeping for Dummies."
- Protective clothing
- Varied plants in your yard
- Beekeeping smoker
- Hive tool for lifting the frames from the supers
- Honey extraction brushes and scrapers
- Protective clothing
- Entrance feeder for fall and winter
Options for Attaining Your Colony
- Our suggested route - Purchase a NUC (nuclear colony) from a local apiary. If you go this route, your bees will already be acclimated and starting to produce honey.
- Purchase a package of bees and a separate queen.
- Capture a swarm if you spot one that has taken up residence nearby.
Bringing Your Colony Home to Its New Hive
Whichever route you choose, when you bring the bees home, be sure you are wearing your protective clothing and transfer them into their new hive. Moving forward, check your hives regularly to ensure that your bees are healthy and working. Check that the queen remains available and that the bees are producing eggs.
If you have taken all of the steps above, it should be an easy transition. Now, join your local beekeeping club and state beekeeping association to network with likeminded individuals and grow your passion for beekeeping. We wish you the best of luck getting started!
Bee stings cause pain and swelling, and it is important to know if you are allergic before getting started so that you can ensure you have the proper supplies on hand in the event of an allergic reaction.