Beekeeping 101: Why Raise Honeybees?

April 27, 2012

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Thinking of raising honeybees? Here is a beginner’s guide to beekeeping , starting with the pros and cons of having your own apiary!

Starting an apiary is relatively easy; however, there are some things you should consider:

Pros

There are many reasons why you would want to raise honeybees.

Honey is probably the obvious answer. Who wouldn’t love their own fresh batch of honey to use in recipes. A single bee can produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime (about 6 weeks), and with a colony consisting of thousands of bees, that can add up quickly.

Wax is another popular product of bees. Bees convert their food and make it into the wax comb. Wax is used in many ways, including candles and cosmetics. Many creams and lipsticks contain beeswax. You can learn how to make your own lipbalm with this guide.

Pollination is a key component of bee life. If you want healthy plants, bees can help. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination.”

Diligent workers. There’s a reason we say “busy as a bee.” Bees are constant workers. The nice thing is that it doesn’t take a lot of work on your part to raise bees. Once you get past the initial startup costs, you now have a free labor force that will produce honey and wax that you can later sell. Bees are independent, so there is not a lot of time commitment on your part. Plan for about a half hour each week and for honey collecting twice a year. As long as you are collecting when you should be, not over- or underdoing it, than you will have a happy relationship with your little honey-makers for years to come.

Cons

There are some downsides to raising honeybees.

Stings can be a major deterrence for the would-be beekeeper. Check with your doctor first to determine if you are one of the unlucky people who are allergic to bee stings. Even if you are not allergic, stings can still be slightly painful. Luckily, though, most beekeepers develop immunity to the poison over time.

Cost of supplies. The initial cost of beekeeping is relatively cheap. You will, however, need to invest in supplies such as a hive, proper clothing, a smoker, extracting equipment, and hive supplies. As of this writing, a single new hive may cost about $110, clothing and gear may cost about $160, and a package of new bees may run $75 to $100. Often you can find starter kits with bees, boxes, and gear for a better combined price.

The first year can be a tough one. On top of learning the ins and outs of beekeeping, you may not get a large amount of honey. Learn to be patient with yourself and your bees.

Community

Be sure to talk to local beekeepers and beekeeping organizations or communities. It’s always a good idea to go out with an expert a few times before raising your own bees.

There are plenty of organizations about beekeeping available to those willing to look. These organizations are particularly useful for finding swarms (collections of bees) once you’ve become established with your apiary.

Next: Let's get started on raising bees!

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Comments

I'm a community development

By Tinyiko Baloyi on July 24

I'm a community development worker in South Africa helping a group of 6 women to start a bee keeping cooperative.

Is there anyone who keeps

By NicoleT

Is there anyone who keeps bees purely to help boast the bee population? Is it possible to just have a box for the bees and let them do their thing without human intervention?

Technically, yes, you can

By Almanac Staff

Technically, yes, you can keep a honey bee hive without taking the honey. After all, this is what happens in nature.
However, if your (very worthy) goal is to have bees for pollination, you may wish to consider mason bee boxes. The native, solitary bee is a better choice for pollination. Then be sure to have a place for water to drink—and you can watch nature thrive!

I am a beekeeper and was

By TimSTilley

I am a beekeeper and was wondering if you have or can make almanac for the raising of honeybees.

What an interesting idea! For

By Almanac Staff

What an interesting idea! For now, we have this beekeeping beginner's guide in 7 chapters to get folks started. What would a beekeeping almanac include? After all, an "almanac" is a "calendar of the heavens" and usually focused on the Sun and Moon movement/times.

Can you raise bees in a

By Betty Smits

Can you raise bees in a northern climate like New York?

Of course! We are based in

By Almanac Staff

Of course! We are based in New Hampshire and have many beekeeping associations. One meets at the local library. Where there are flowers, there are bees to pollinate (we hope!).

Thanks for the link to the

By Clever Survivalist Blog Survival Guide

Thanks for the link to the beeculture site! I will bee(haha) looking into the tennessee info.

"Check out my Survivalist Blog at the Clever Survivalist and read daily Survival Guide content."

Very informative. I'm

By Rodeny

Very informative. I'm retiring from teaching and want to start a hive.
thank you.

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