Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby. Watching these little creatures buzz around is mesmerizing. If you are considering becoming a beekeeper, I highly recommend it! Here are some things for you to consider before you take the plunge.
You will get stung.
Way to state the obvious, Melanie! Seriously though, getting stung is no joke. It’s painful on the first day, then itchy on the second, and just plain hurts for a few days. If you are allergic to bee stings, it could be life threatening. I would like to tell you that with time and experience, you will get stung less, but that is a lie. There are, however, times when bees are more likely and less likely to sting. If you are taking honey frames out of their hive, then they are going to be super mad and will be more likely to sting. If you are just peeking in their hive to check on drawn comb or capped brood, they might not be so mad. From my personal experience, the breed of a bee has a lot to do with how aggressive they are. My hives have a Russian cross queen that I got from Lookout Mountain Honey Bees. The bees in my hives now are the calmest bees I have ever dealt with. The bees I had previously in the hives that died were Italian bees and tended to be somewhat aggressive.
Getting started is costly.
I’m not going to lie – beekeeping is expensive. Some companies offer these cute little “Beeginner” packages that include a hive, tools, and a hat. (You don’t need all of that, by the way. Read HERE about the tools I recommend for a beginner.) What the companies don’t tell you is that a package of bees will cost you in the neighborhood of $150 (more or less), and if you want to start with a nucleus colony of bees (commonly referred to as a nuc – pronounced “nook”), it could cost you $200 or more. Most beekeepers recommend that you start with two hives, so multiply everything by two, and it starts adding up.
Where will they live?
You must carefully consider where you will place your hives before you bring your bees home. If you have a farm out in the country, no one is going to care if you put up a bunch of beehives. In fact, if your farming neighbors are row crop farmers, they will love you for it, because the bees will help their plants grow. Our neighbors told us that they had their best garden in years last year thanks to our bees. However, if you are in the country, and your farming neighbors spray pesticides on their crops, you may need to consider placing your beehives as far away from that property line as possible. If you live in the city, you will need to check to see if there are any ordinances prohibiting honeybees within your city limits. Also, be prepared for your neighbors to not be as excited about your beekeeping venture as you are.
Do you have a partner in crime?
While my husband was VERY reluctant to get involved with my beekeeping wild hair, I eventually pulled him over to my side, and now he is planning out our apiary to reach his ultimate goal of 30 hives (yikes). You may not have someone who is willing to don a bee suit, fire up your smoker for you, and hand you tools when you need them in your bee yard, but you do need to have someone who can at least peek out a window and check on you every now and then. Beekeeping is dangerous, especially if you are inexperienced. Until you get some experience under your belt, I would recommend, at a minimum, that someone knows you are in the bee yard, and to check on you from time to time. (Side note: I have been beekeeping for 3 years, and I still do not feel comfortable being in the bee yard without someone being in earshot of me.)
Do you have time?
At a recent meeting of our local Beekeepers Association, one of our members who has kept bees for many years told our group, “Folks, gone are the days when you could set up a hive and then a year later go and collect your honey.” I never knew this was an option in the first place. He is correct, though. You cannot set up a beehive and then just leave them alone. You must check on the queen to make sure she is alive and healthy. You must check for an infestation of hive beetles. If you have a weak hive, you need to check for wax moths and their larvae. And then there is the coup de grace of the modern beehive – the varroa mite. Bees do a great job defending themselves, but the fact of the matter is, with changes in society come environmental changes, and therefore we must step in to help the bees when they need us. You must take the time to check on your hives regularly or they will die or swarm, thus making all of your time, effort, and money for naught.
I hope this post has not discouraged you from becoming a beekeeper. Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby, but it is a lot of work. Are you a beekeeper? What else should new beekeepers consider before starting? I would love to know what you would add to this post. Leave your comments below!
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