Beekeeping 101: Why Raise Honeybees?

The Pros and Cons of Keeping Bees

Apr 30, 2018
Honeybee and Flower

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Thinking of raising honeybees? Here are the pros and cons of keeping an apiary in your backyard.

Starting an apiary is relatively easy. However, as with caring for any new animal, you should learn all that you can about their husbandry before diving in.

Here are some things to consider about keeping bees:

Pros

There are many reasons why you might want to raise honeybees, including:

  • 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. Read more about collecting honey.
  • Wax is another popular product that comes from 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 even learn how to make your own lipbalm.
  • Healthier Landscapes: If you want healthier plants and better crops, bees can help. Raising honeybees encourages land that’s free from pesticides, more wildflower meadows and trees, and more flowers and food. Honeybees are often our first introduction to bees—a gateway. However, the true unsung heroes of pollination are native bee species, not honeybees!
  • 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 whole 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. Note that in colder climates, you may need to help the bees overwinter properly.

Honey bees

Cons

There are some downsides to raising honey bees, however:

  • Non-Natives: While we farm honeybees for honey, there’s mounting research that honeybees are out-competing our native bees in the wild. Honeybees are non-natives. Wild, solitary bees are the super-pollinators of our native flowers and plants. If you’re getting bees to pollinate your food (not to farm honey), consider a solitary bee house (and encourage native plants and wildflowers)!
  • Stings can happen with honeybees. 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. Read more about beekeeping supplies.
  • 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.
  • Bee diseases. As you might know, bee populations have been in decline for several years. Diseases, pesticides, and parasites are the most common troubles encountered by bees, but sometimes, there is no explanation for an unhealthy hive. Take the time to learn how to keep your bees healthy and to inquire about any problems other beekeepers in your area might have had. Read more about common bee diseases.

Community

Be sure to talk to local beekeepers and beekeeping organizations or communities. They often meet at public libraries. 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.

Beekeeping 101: Raising Honeybees in Your Backyard

  1. Why Raise Honeybees? (You are here.)
  2. Getting Started Part 1: The Bees
  3. Getting Started Part 2: Beekeeping Equipment
  4. Building a Hive
  5. Where to Get Bees
  6. Collecting Honey
  7. Common Bee Diseases

About This Blog

Would you like to raise honeybees in your backyard? Here is our free Beekeeping 101 series—a beginner’s guide in 7 chapters. We’ll talk about how to get started raising bees, the clothing and equipment needed, building a hive, collecting honey, and common bee diseases. After this "taste" of honeymaking, you can decide if you're ready to enter the world of beekeeping!

Reader Comments

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What does it cost

What does it cost

beehives in the city

Is there a recommendation to acreage for beehive/s... Would living in the city limits and in a residential area with home lot of about 1/2- 1 acre sufficient or is this too small an area?

raising bees

That’s a great question. No one really knows but the general rule is that the ideal foraging area is about one acre of blossoming trees, shrubs, or flowers to thrive. 

Bee Keeping article

The best so far. I will stay a little while with this Web site. Thank you.

Starter kit

Where would you find a starter kit

Just type in bee keeping

Contact a local bee keeping organisation or local beekeeper for advice. Bee Culture magazine is a good source. Your local library is also usually a good source; in fact, sometimes beekeeping groups meet at the library.

Bee Starter Kits

Tractor Supply has them, I think about 200 bucks, and they have bees !

I'll be following the

I'll be following the provided links. Last year I restarted keeping after a 22-year hiatus, I was a young teen at the time. Searched countless beek forums... found WorldWideBeekeeping.com to be the best (for me), friendliest, and most helpful. Reading what F/A has to offer will, I'm sure, be a nice addition.

Great article, lays out some

Great article, lays out some good points in a simple format. If you are reading this article, you may already be a beekeeper. If not, you may be thinking of starting a hive. Either way, you should consider natural beekeeping. Check out the Natural Beekeeping Board.

I will bee going to a

I will bee going to a "Beekeeping class" tomorrow. I am looking forward to this. Excited!

I'm a community development

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

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

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!

Sorry, what do you mean make

Sorry, what do you mean make sure you have water to drink, does the hive need to be a certain distance from the hive? Thank you

Sorry, does the hive need to

Sorry, does the hive need to be a certain distance from water?

I am a beekeeper and was

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

What an interesting idea! For

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.

Almanac

I was also looking for an almanac format. Looking for a seasonal/weekly beekeeping guide to chores to do on a cyclical pattern. Any out there?

Can you raise bees in a

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

Of course! We are based in

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

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

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

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