Backyard Beekeeping as a Hobby

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Enjoy Beekeeping in Your Backyard

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 backyard beekeeping as a hobby that you need to consider from a legal point of view and financial.

Beekeeper inspecting a new hive of bees in a backyard image.

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 become a beekeeper, you have come to the right place.

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 beekeeping, learn all you can about the hobby.

Small Backyard Beekeeping

Yes, it is possible to have a hive or two of bees in the backyard -even if your yard is not overly large.

Don’t worry too much if you do not have a lot of flowers in your yard. 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 pollinators.

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 deciding whether or not to begin 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.

Set up your bee yard or apiary in a way that is good for the bees and the beekeeper.

Dangers of Backyard Beekeeping

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 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.

painted beehive in backyard

Beekeeping as a Hobby-Step by Step

To become successful with your bees, you must educate yourself on basic bee biology and the dynamics of the colony. Beekeeper tasks are not required each day but you need to know what to do when.

Learn Basics Beekeeping Tasks

Knowledge is power and that is never more true than when applied to beginning beekeeping. A beehive is not a bird house. Your bees will need some management but you need to learn what to do and when.

Learn basic bee biology and how the honey bee colony works. You need to know how to identify the different types of bees in the colony and know what role each one plays.

It is impossible to be a good beekeeper without understanding basic colony dynamics. Find some good beekeeping books for beginners and study them.

Beekeeping Books and Classes

I highly suggest checking 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 different classes.

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.

Honey bee with pollen on beekeeper finger image.

Is Beekeeping Right for You?

As you learn more about the aspects of managing a beehive, consider your beekeeping goals. What do you hope to accomplish by becoming a beekeeper?

If you want to produce honey for your family, a couple of hives may be enough. If you want to sell honey or start a bee business, you will need more hives.

Attending to the needs of your bees does require some lifting (boxes of honey get heavy) but there are strategies to make the work load lighter.

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.

However, even hives kept only for pollination require some maintenance by the beekeeper.

Beekeeping in the South “ain’t” Easy

Becoming a beekeeper involves hard work and sweat!  Beekeeping is rewarding but not easy – be prepared for some hard work.

I have to manage hives during the heat of summer.  Trust me, it gets really hot in that bee suit in July ! 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 Backyard 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 devoted to beekeeping during Spring and early Summer?

Bees Don’t Take A Summer Vacation

I enjoy helping new beekeepers and want to encourage everyone to learn more about bees, but beekeeping is not for everyone.

Bees don’t take a Summer vacation. If you do, you have to plan around the needs of 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.

Two package of honey bee purchased for new backyard hives image.

Getting Bees for Your Hive

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.

Join Local Beekeeping Groups

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.

Final Thoughts on Backyard Beekeeping as a Hobby

Many new beekeepers become enthralled with the world of the honey bee. They fall in love with all things “bee”.  Enjoy your beekeeping journey, it will have ups and downs.

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.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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6 Comments

  1. Edward Moresco says:

    Charlotte,
    I am very interested in starting my own beehive. I live just outside Lexington SC. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. Thats wonderful Edward. This is the time of year to order bees. The best local book is First Lessons in Beekeeping but I like the Beekeepers Handbook too. Please follow my blog and search through my older articles, you will find alot of information. Happy beekeeping

  3. I tried joining your Facebook group however I couldn’t scroll down pass the third question. Am I doing something wrong?

  4. Hi charlotte,
    I live in lebanon fall season temperatures varies between 19 and and 23 degree celcius.
    I have started beekeeping it is my second year and i have 3 hives,
    I realise a slower activity in one of my colony, varoa was the reason.
    I started healing all hives with apivar in 23 october, and the lazy colony i put candy to tease the queen to lay eggs.
    But till now the week colony still didn’t get better, the queen started to lay eggs but not enough, as i expected.
    There is a beekeeping shop that imported new mated queen from Argentina.

    Is it a solution to change the queen or it is better to wait for the apivar 4 more weeks. knowing that it is the second year for the queen.

    Awaiting your reply
    Carolina honey bees Very intresting website and i have registered for you newsletter.

    Have a nice day
    Antoun Bou-Najem

  5. Hi Antoun, You can change the queen. But your hive will still need time to recover from varroa mites. If it is able to recover from the varroa infestation, that will take several weeks. Sometimes a colony can not recover from a heavy mite problem. Even when you remove all the mites, you still have sick bees until that are affected by the viruses etc. Also, your queen will only lay as many eggs as she has workers to care for. If your population is low, it may not be her fault. But since she is older, you may decide to go with a new queen if you still have a large enough population to carry the hive forward. Best of luck to you.

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