If the idea of backyard beekeeping sets your thoughts abuzz, you are not alone. Thousands of people are interested in pursuing beekeeping as a hobby. And why not, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the majesty of a beehive and maybe a jar of honey from your own bees. But, before you order that hive, there are a few things about keeping a beehive that you need to consider from a legal point of view and financial.
Backyard Beekeeping 101
In a time when honey bees are facing many challenges we just can not have too many good beekeepers. So if your goal is to help promote bees- you have come to the right place.
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Luckily, being a beekeeper is certainly an attainable goal for most people. However, it does require some attention to detail. Before investing your money in bees and equipment, you need to educate yourself.
While we can manage bees, honey bees are not domesticated. They are wild bees living in a man-made box and will be protective of their hive.
When considering beekeeping, ask yourself if you have a quiet corner away from human activity for the beehives. Finding a good place for your beehives is key to success in a small yard.
Don’t worry too much if you do not have a lot of flowers. Bees can fly. Honey bees will travel up to several miles away to gather the resources needed by the colony.
However, most beekeepers enjoy planting flowers for bees. They can add beauty to your landscape and provide food for all pollinators.
Is it Safe to Keep Bees in Your Backyard?
Like most things in life, there are some risks to consider if you are thinking about having your own beehives. Are there any local laws or homeowner restrictions against having bees?
Some areas will allow 1 or 2 hives but no more. Check the regulations to know how many beehives you can have- if any.
Are any members of your family allergic to bee stings? Can you place the hives far enough away to from the house to lessen the danger of stings? Honey bees are not aggressive but hive temperament can change over the season.
Most of these issues can be worked out but should be considered before you proceed. It is very disheartening to spend money and time on bees and find out that you can not keep them.
Set up your bee yard or apiary in a way that is good for the bees and the beekeeper.
Keys to Successful Hobby Beekeeping
- educate yourself on managing honey bees
- do you have the physical ability or someone to help
- consider the cost in money and time
- connect with others in the hobby
Knowledge is power and that is never more true than when applied to beginning beekeeping. A beehive is not a bird house.
To become successful with your bees, you must educate yourself on basic bee biology and the dynamics of the colony. You need to learn how to inspect your hives and know what to do and when to do it.
It is impossible to be a good beekeeper without understanding basic colony dynamics. Find some good beekeeping books for beginners and study them.
As you learn more about the aspects of managing a beehive, consider your beekeeping goals. If you want to produce honey for your family, a couple of hives may be enough.
If you want to sell a lot honey or start a bee business, you will need more hives. Then, your operation is not a hobby any longer but a true business for profit.
Others, have no interest in honey production but they need to know how to manage colonies if you don’t harvest honey.
Check out several beekeeping classes. Local associations usually offer them in the late Winter. Everyone teaches in a different manner and there is benefit from taking more than one beekeeping class.
My Online Beekeeping Class is an option for you as well. Created from years of teaching local live classes, it covers the basics and beyond for new beekeepers. And, you can go back and re-watch parts of the course again to refresh your memory if needed.
Is Beekeeping Right for You?
Attending to the needs of your bees does require some lifting (boxes of honey get heavy). Are you able to lift at least 40-50 pounds? If not, there are strategies to make the work load lighter but beekeeping is work.
For some beekeepers, bee pollination is the draw to beekeeping. Just a couple of hives can provide ample pollination for a home garden or small orchard.
These colonies require less hive manipulation. But, even colonies kept only for pollination require some maintenance by the beekeeper.
Beekeeping in the South “ain’t” Easy
Managing honey bees involves hard work and sweat! Beekeeping is rewarding but not easy – be prepared for some hard work.
I hate inspecting hives during the heat of summer. Trust me, it gets really hot in that bee suit in July in the south ! I actually own a cooling vest to help me work hives in July.
Are you sensitive to heat? Do you have a work schedule that would allow you to work your bees during the cooler times of day?
How Much Time Does Beekeeping Require?
It may surprise you to learn that beekeeping does not require a large investment of time. Honey bee colonies do not need maintenance on a daily basis.
Routine inspections are necessary-often on a monthly or bi-monthly schedule. The cold months of Winter is the time of year when beekeepers have much less to do.
However, Spring and Summer can be very busy times for the beekeeper. Do you have a few hours each week to devote to your bees?
Bees Don’t Take A Summer Vacation
Bees don’t take a Summer vacation. If you do, you have to plan around the needs of your colonies. This is especially true for new colonies that may need fed or inspected.
Do you have someone who can feed bees while you are away? This is a good reason to make a couple of beekeeper friends in your area.
What Does it Cost to Start With Bees?
Beekeeping is not an inexpensive undertaking in the beginning. A new beekeeper can expect to pay several hundred dollars per hive ($300-$400) at start up for basic hives.
You will also need a few beekeeping tools and some beekeeping protective clothing. The cost of these will depend to a large degree on which options you choose ($75-$200).
New beekeepers often want to buy used equipment to save money at start up. This can be okay but it is very risky due the chance of getting equipment that carries disease.
Though these start up costs for beekeeping can be a bit steep, many of the items you buy will last for years.
You may be surprised to learn that bees are ordered months before the pickup or delivery date. Most new beekeepers will buy bee packages.
This is the easiest and surest way to get bees for your new hive. You may even catch wild bee swarms but don’t count on it.
Increase the Joy of Hobby Beekeeping – Connect With Others
The support of a local beekeeping club is an immeasurable resource. And if you are starting beekeeping as a hobby to do in your spare time – its a lot of fun to meet others with a similar passion.
If local beekeepers are not an option, look online. The internet is a great source of information. You will find numerous beginning beekeeping videos and articles online.
But, don’t believe everything you hear online. Anyone can make a YouTube video (even me – LOL). You have no guarantee that they know what they are talking about. Use the internet resources but proceed with caution.
Many new beekeepers become enthralled with the world of the honey bee. They fall in love with all things “bee”. Some new beekeepers get discouraged and quit. But for those of us who stick with it, the magic of the beehive is never ending.
I love just sitting beside my beehives and watching the bees. And, you will never taste honey that is better than the honey from your hives.
Starting beekeeping as a hobby in your backyard may become one of the greatest adventures of your life.