Keeping thousands of bees with stingers in a box – does that sound like fun to you? Well, for thousands of beekeepers (like me and maybe you), it is a wonderful pastime. While it involves some hard work, there are many benefits of keeping bees. Indeed, the pleasure of having your own beehive has advantages for your family and nearby neighbors too.
Beekeeping Provides Many Advantages
Having some hives around is a plus, not only for the people in charge of these winged darlings but for the community too.
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Members of the beekeeping industry make some big impacts but those of you with a couple of backyard hives play a role as well.
Primary Benefits of Keeping Bees
- keeping bees provides economic value – pollination, jobs
- local pollination of small gardens
- wildlife benefit from increase food
- enjoyable hobby
- may reduce stress
- produce natural products
- profitable beekeeping
- great family project
- you can keep bees in many different locations
- making new friends
Economic Benefits of Beekeeping
The primary value of beekeeping in the United States is pollination of crops. Modern agriculture systems are set up to grow large fields of a single kind of crop. It is common for the fields to be in bloom at the same time.
Crops that require insect pollination yield larger harvests with honey bees in the field. There would not be enough native pollinators to service the large number of flowers. This is where migratory beekeeping businesses are able to help farmers.
Colonies are brought to the fields and left for a few weeks. Once the bloom period is over, the hives can be easily moved to another crop in need of pollination.
Another economic benefit of beekeeping is the jobs provided. Raising and managing colonies and producing the supplies needed for new beekeepers – all provide jobs.
Pollination of Your Gardens
It is not just the large farms that benefit from beekeeping. Small home gardens and orchards produce more fruits and vegetables with good pollination.
Bees can fly several miles to a good food source. This means that even if you don’t have a colony one that belongs to your neighbor may still visit your garden.
The hives in your backyard can help increase the yield in your vegetable garden and that of your neighbors too. Apples, almonds, berries, melons and other plants benefit from bee visits.
If you feel that harvesting honey is bad for bees, or you just don’t want the hassle – you can still enjoy a hive.
Keeping Bees Provides More Food for Wildlife
Having a small apiary of beehives around can be beneficial for the environment and wildlife. A honey bee colony has a large number of workers bees.
As these foragers go out in search of nectar and pollen, they pollinate blooming native plants. Yes, they do compete with native pollinators for food sources. However, unless the area is over-stocked with beehives, the added pollination of wild plants increases the fruits available for birds and other wildlife.
A side effect of caring for bees also helps wildlife. Beekeepers learn about how pesticides harm their bees. This often encourages them to avoid use of the most toxic chemicals etc.
Beekeeping is an Engaging Hobby
The joy of being a beekeeper must not be overlooked. A beekeeper harvesting their first honey crop is filled with a sense of achievement. I promise – that will be the best tasting honey ever!
Learning to manage a colony and bring them through the Winter in good shape is a great feeling too. In fact, the study of beekeeping will provide one with years of engaging learning opportunities. And, even then – you will only have scratched the surface of the secrets of bees.
Mental Health Benefits of Keeping Bees
For some, the act of tending a beehive has a calming affect. Mental health issues such as depression, PTSD and even anxiety having shown improvement for those involved in beekeeping.
Though as an anxiety sufferer, I must say that they can cause you some frustration too. But, I feel the benefits of keeping bees has outweighed the hassles.
Produce Helpful Products
To many, a favorite beekeeping benefit is the many products produced by the hive. These are used in the beekeepers home or made into items for sale or gifts.
Honey is usually the thing that comes to mind. Each individual bee only produces a small amount of honey. But, when thousands work together, it can add up to a lot. The harvest can be used by the beekeepers family or sold to locals.
However, the gifts from the hive are numerous and not limited to honey alone. Bee pollen, propolis, and certainly raw wax are valuable products to use or sell. Beeswax candles are highly prized and make great gifts too.
Bee stings are not usually considered to be desirable. However, some beekeepers sell bee venom for use in sting therapy. It is not uncommon to find an arthritis sufferer that keeps a beehive just for the benefit of sting therapy.
Beekeeping Can be Profitable
In the United States, the majority of beekeepers are small-scale hobbyists. But this does not mean that you can not make money from bees. Beekeeping can be a profitable business.
Perhaps you want to manage hundreds of colonies for honey production. Or a beekeeper can, raise and sell bees or equipment to other beekeepers. Even hive products from a bee farm can provide a living with time and hard work.
If this is your dream, take the time to develop a plan. As with any business, it is important to understand the risks, start costs, continuing expenses and challenges of running a bee farm.
For most people, backyard beekeeping is a hobby or small side-business to make a little money. The beekeeper sells excess honey at a local farmers market.
The sale of extra swarms or hive splits helps recoup some of the costs of keeping their own hives. This is a great option as it allows the bees to pay for them own upkeep.
State Sponsored Tax Breaks
Due to the problems facing honey bees in recent years, some states provide incentive tax breaks for beekeepers. To learn if these are available in your area, check with your local state department of agriculture.
Beekeeping as a Family Bonding Experience
It may surprise you to learn that one benefit of keeping bees is more family time. Letting the kids become involved in taking care of a hive is a unique educational experience.
Beekeeping suits are available in kid sizes too. Helping Mom, Dad, Grandmother or Grandfather with the bees is an experience that is never forgotten.
Beehives Can Be Kept in Many Places
Not every location is a good one for a beehive. Yet, honey bees are quite portable and many places are suitable for a hive or two.
Urban beekeeping is a thing in some cities. Check with local officials before getting a hive. Of course, keeping bees with neighbors close by has special challenges but it can be done.
Meeting New Friends
Beekeepers love nothing more than to talk about their hives. And, we can go on and on about our experiences, sometimes to our families regret. Keeping bees may bring some new friends into your life.
Local beekeeping associations hold regular meetings for members of the community to come together and learn. These can be a lot of fun.
Beekeepers are the First Line of Defense
Beekeeping actually helps keep the over-all health of honey bees at a higher level. Some people say that beekeepers use bees for their own benefit.
In fact, this is why most vegans avoid honey. I respect their view though I feel differently. Most beekeepers strive to take care of their colonies.
If fact, they are often the first to notice major problems in the hives. When Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was first observed, it was beekeepers that noticed the problem first.
Colony failure on a large scale was a sign that something big and strange was happening. Reducing bee population alerted researchers to begin exploring possible causes.
Beekeepers do help bees. In any apiary, most colonies suffering from parasites – varroa mite infestations would die without intervention.
Likewise, a colony that loses a queen bee benefits from having a caring beekeeper to make sure things are set right.
In spite of the many benefits of keeping bees, please understand that it is not all fun and games. Any activity that involves managing live creatures involves some stress.
Things won’t always work out perfectly. However, most beekeepers love their colonies and strive to provide a safe, healthy environment for them.
Yes, it can be very rewarding. Those who educate and prepare themselves prior to getting bees are much more likely to be successful.
Honey bees are a group do benefit from being in managed colonies. In the hands of a competent beekeeper, colonies that would fail are allowed to thrive.
Keeping bees can be a profitable adventure. However, it is not a get rich quick scheme – proper planning, hard work and sometimes a bit of luck are all necessary.
In the practice of managing colonies and harvesting honey, some bees are killed. The loss of bees is minimized as much as possible by conscientious beekeepers. However, colonies infected with dangerous diseases – such as AFB – many be destroyed to prevent spread.