Is Beekeeping Right for You?
Beekeeping is the fascinating relationship between man (or woman) and honey bees. It involves caring for the beehive and protecting the honey bees. And, most of us want to reap the extra benefits of a little honey. Keeping bees in a beehive is not the same as putting up a bird house. There is more involved than a once a year visit to the box.
Managing honey bees requires less time than most types of livestock. You don’t need to attend to the needs of the colony every day. In fact, opening the hive too much can be a bad thing.
However, you need to learn what tasks need done and when to do them. This involves taking the time to learn proper management of your hive.
Failure to try to give your bees the help they need is poor beekeeping. We all have failures with our hives but good beekeepers continue to grow and learn.
Those beekeepers that prepare for their beekeeping journey before the bees even arrive are much more successful overall.
So, where do you start? Read, learn and listen. The internet is full of wonderful beekeeping tips and it is a great place to start.
However, not everything you hear on a Youtube channel is a good idea for your hives. With experience you learn which techniques to apply to your bees and those that are not right for you.
Managing a Beehive is Hard Work
If you live in a region that has hot weather, expect to sweat. I live in the South, July in a bee suit is no picnic.
Having beehives does not mean that you can never go on vacation again – thank goodness. But, you do have to plan.
Honey bees do not take a vacation. They work diligently during the warm months.
The successful beekeeper develops a plan for feeding bees or conducting hive inspections during the hot Summer months.
Fear of Bees for the Beekeeper
It is okay to be concerned about bee stings. In fact, does anyone enjoy getting stung? I doubt it. But , you don’t have to have a fear of bees.
You will get stung. It is the rare beekeeper who never gets stung during a season. However, using proper beekeeping protective wear will greatly minimize stinging episodes.
As you learn the rules of when and how to manage your colonies, you will learn how to avoid most stings.
Choosing Your Beekeeping Style
For those of you new to the world of beekeeping, confusion can set in pretty quickly. This hobby involves a lot of opinions.
In fact, there are several different ways to keep bees. Which style of beehive will you use? What types of honey bees are best for your hives?
These questions and many more can boggle down your efforts in the beginning.
The good news is that you can change your mind and try different beekeeping styles as you go along.
Beginner Beekeeping Goals
Many of us, myself included, begin our beekeeping adventure with the best and brightest of ambitions.
We want to “help save the bees” and possibly have some honey for ourselves. Nothing wrong with that.
If you have a large garden or orchard, having hives will provide pollination. Better pollination increases crop yield.
No matter what your beekeeping goals are, you should be able to find a way to make things work.
If you get started with bees having a clear goal in mind, you will have a clearer path to success.
Why Beekeepers Don’t Agree?
Oh boy, this is a big topic. The best description I haved heard on the subject of beekeeper opinions is this one.
“The only thing that beekeepers can agree on – is that beekeepers can’t agree on one thing”!
This is of course a “tongue in cheek” quote about the frustrations of new beekeepers. They receive 5 different answers to every question. And many of the answers seem to contradict each other.
Are others just trying to confuse you? No, not really.
There are many variables involved in beekeeping. Each hive of bees is a bit different. Yes, even if the bees come from the same supplier.
The genetics of the queen bee and the genetics of the drones that she mates with have an effect on the colony.
The genetic makeup of the colony determines many behaviors. Bee vitality, swarm tendency, honey production and more.
Weather and climate play a large role in being a successful beekeeper. Techniques that work well in Florida may not be feasible in North Dakota.
Even though the bees and basic management can be the same, the environment they live in is not.
Different types of beehives require different management techniques. This is why I generally suggest Langstroth Hives for beginners – this is most most common type. Some hive styles will require a bit more maintenance than others.
Educate yourself. Knowledge is key in the world of beekeeping. After yeas of teaching local classes, I developed an online class with all of my beginner tips.
Is Natural Beekeeping Your Thing?
At the risk of an argument let me put this out there, what is natural beekeeping?
Doesn’t every beekeeper want to keep bees in a natural way? I would think so. If you love bees, why would you want to do anything else?
However, the definition of natural beekeeping varies greatly depending on who is talking.
Most beekeepers begin with the idea not using chemical treatments. But, they buy their bees from large suppliers that produce thousands of packages each year.
If you want to practice natural beekeeping with any measure of success, you must find a source for bees that focuses on those traits.
A common method of embracing the natural beekeeping movement is to manage the bees as natural as possible.
This includes buying bees or queens from producers that are known for hardy strong bees. Bees that do not need as much pampering.
Choosing the most natural methods for mite control instead of reaching for the quick and easy synthetic chemicals is part of this strategy.
However, if the “softer” methods don’t work, you have to make the choice between using the harder (but approved chemicals) or letting the bees die.
All Beekeeping Has a Local Component
A new beekeeper can learn many things online. Some of them are even true. But, you can also learn a lot of bad advice.
Ultimately, the bees are your responsibility. Learn from others. But be careful of taking online advice without considering your local environment.
Local beekeepers will know the specific problems that your beehives will face. They will know which flowers for bees you should plant.
Local beekeepers will know when you are most likely to face a dearth (or lack of nectar).
And most importantly, locals will be able to give a good estimation of how much honey your beehive needs for Winter.
Check out a local beekeeper’s association. If you are not the “bee club” type, contact the agriculture division for your state.
Either one of these groups should be able to give you some basic guidelines for success beekeeping.
Best Time to Begin Beehives
The best time to prepare for beekeeping is in the Fall or Winter. This is the time when beekeepers are not too busy and have more time to talk.
Beekeeping does not begin on the day your bees arrive. In addition to buying your equipment and getting your hives painted and ready, you need to learn what to do.
You will enjoy your beekeeping experience more if you prepare ahead of time. It is an expensive hobby to approach solely from a learn as you go philosophy.
An individual who has a sincere desire to start beekeeping has some ideas to consider.
There are many ways to keep bees. Those who care for the honey bees and true to do no harm are “beekeepers”.
Those who exploit the bees, hoping for a quick return with no effort, are “bee-havers”. Bless the poor bees who end up in the hands of the last group.