Beekeeping Involves Some Hard Work
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. Yet, you will need to invest time in learning a few things. You need to learn what to do and when to do it!
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.
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.
You will get stung. But, wearing proper protective gear will greatly minimize stinging episodes. You don’t have to have a fear of bees.
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
If you have been involved in the world of beekeeping for very long, you know it involves a lot of opinions. There are several different ways to keep bees. Which beekeeping style will you choose?
Examining Your 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 advantages for ourselves too. Nothing wrong with that.
If you have a large garden or orchard, having beehives in your yard will provide bee 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.
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 and the genetics of the drones that she mates with have an effect on the bee colony.
The genetic makeup of the colony determines many behaviors. Bee vitality, swarm tendency, honey production and more is affected.
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 if the bees were exactly the same, the environment they live in is not.
Some hive styles will require a bit more maintenance than others. The same can be said of races of bees.
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. 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 about beekeeping 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, think local. A group of local beekeepers will be able to give you 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.
When Should Your Start Your 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.