Beekeeping 101: Should You Raise Honey Bees?

The Pros and Cons of Keeping Bees

March 19, 2019
Honeybee and Flower

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Are you interested in raising honey bees? Does having your own beehive sound intriguing? Here’s our 7-part series on Beekeeping 101! Plus, discover an online beekeeping class. 

Almost anyone can master the skills necessary to be a good beekeeper. Your journey to successful beekeeping begins with preparation. You should learn all that you can about bee hive management before your bees arrive. Here are some things to consider about keeping bees:

Pros to Beekeeping

There are several reasons why you might want to raise honey bees, including:

  • Honey is probably the obvious answer. Most beekeepers want to produce fresh honey.  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.
  • Beeswax is another popular product that comes from bees. Worker honey bees produce wax from special glands on their abdomen. The beeswax is formed into honeycomb and becomes the structure of their home. We use beeswax also. It is used in candle-making and cosmetics. Many creams and lipsticks contain beeswax. You can even learn how to make your own lipbalm.
  • Pollination: If you want better yield from your orchards and gardens, honey bees can help. Raising honey bees ensures better pollination of flowering plants. This means more food for ourselves and wildlife. Honey bees are the heroes of pollination efforts for modern agriculture. However, the role of native bee species cannot be overlooked.
  • Diligent workers. There’s a reason we say “busy as a bee.” Bees are constant workers. They do not require constant monitoring. A colony of healthy well-managed bees will produce honey and wax that you can use or later sell.  On average, expect to spend an hour per week during the warm season on colony management. Note that in colder climates, you may need to help the bees overwinter properly.

Honey bees

Challenges to Beekeeping

There are some downsides to raising honey bees, however:

  • Non-Natives: While we manage honey bees for honey & pollination, there is some concern that honey bees are out-competing our native bees in the wild. Honey bees 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 produce honey), consider a solitary bee house (and encourage native plants and wildflowers)!
  • Stings can happen with honey bees. Check with your doctor first to determine if you are one of the unlucky people who are allergic to honey bee stings. Even if you are not allergic, stings are painful. Learning how to properly manage your hives will lessen stinging episodes.
  • Cost of supplies. The initial cost of beekeeping can be intimidating to new beekeepers. You will need to invest in supplies such as a hive, proper protective clothing, a smoker, and hive tool. As of this writing, a single new hive may cost about $150, clothing and gear may cost about $160, and a package of new bees may run $125 to $150. 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 any honey for yourself. Your bees have a lot of work to do during the first season. They must produce wax, raise young bees and store honey for Winter. 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.

Join a Beekeeping 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 Honey Bees in Your Backyard

Read through our Beekeeping 101 series to get an overview of backyard beekeeping:

  1. Should You Raise Honey Bees? (You are here.)
  2. Planning for Honey Bees
  3. Beekeeping Supplies, Clothing, and Equipment
  4. Choosing a Type of Beehive
  5. Where to Get Honey Bees
  6. Harvesting Honey
  7. Common Bee Pests and Diseases

Online Beekeeping Class! 

beekeepercharlottelogo.jpgA thank you to Master Beekeeper Charlotte Anderson from South Carolina who consulted on our beekeeping series! 

Charlotte runs an online beekeeping class! An informed new beekeeper has a much greater chance of beekeeping success.

Check out Charlotte’s class to get off to a Buzzin Start!

About This Blog

Would you like to raise honeybees in your backyard? Welcome to our free Beekeeping 101 series—a beginner’s guide in 7 chapters. In this guide, we talk about how to get started raising bees, the clothing and equipment needed, different hive styles, collecting honey, and common bee diseases. If you like the idea, consider an online beekeeping class to learn more!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Beekeeping Startup

Having invested in beekeeping from scratch, a starter kit is the way to ease into the hobby. In my Texas area, bee packages are up to $150 to $200 for a package of bees with queen. Do your research. It's a fun and rewarding hobby, but takes patience, commitment and a strong back. Attend some local beekeeping association meetings to get info on resources and beekeepers willing to mentor newbies. Visiting and advice is free. Help a beekeeper for a day or a couple of hours to get a taste of what is involved. At the very least, you'll meet a lot of interesting people!

Queen

I have bees living in my walls and parapets. Is it possible to get them to move into a made hive? they do swarm a few times a year.

Removing bees from a wall

Hi Monessa, Yes, it is possible to remove bees from a wall and (often) save them. It’s best to get a referral from your local beekeeping association so it’s done right. The beekeeper will suit up, smoke the hive, and peel back the wall panel to get the bees out. They basically transfer the bees to a box and then move the box to a new location at night.

See more details here: https://entomology.lsu.edu/assets/pub2874removingbees.pdf

Also, here’s a good blog post with photos: www.rootsimple.com/2015/10/how-to-remove-bees-from-a-wall/

Beetles

Our first year the bees were killed by tiny tiny black beetles. What an investment. We have been organic for 40 years. Someone said we had to spray for the beetles. How can that be safe?

Small hive beetle

We do not advocate toxic pesticides.  There are other options to control the small hive beetle (SHB):

  1. Soil nematodes specific to the SHB can be applied to the soil in a pressurized spray or simply poured from a watering can.
  2. Maintaining colony strength coupled with minimizing empty frames of comb will all but eliminate the chances of colony failure.
  3. There are also several traps currently on the market which use non-toxic oil to suffocate the beetles.

New Beekeepers

Beekeeping is one of the most fascinating endeavors you will find. Almost anyone can keep bees almost any where. It does require some training to be successful.

Your blog is really inspiring!

Your blog is really inspiring! I look forward to go into the bee business and i read a lot about it on the web, i need to build my beehive and there is so much ideas to make a beautiful one! I don’t want to live from beekeeping but one in my garden will be so cool!

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

The Editors's picture

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. 

City Beekeeping

Keeping bees in the city does not require much space, as long as you don't mind having bees fly near your house. I have been keeping bees in Southern California for 15 years and I do it in the enclosed front courtyard of my tract home, an area about 15 feet square. My total lot size is 7,000 sq.ft. I normally have two to three hives going. Bees will forage in all the surrounding yards or any open areas, parks, open patches of clover, etc. just like the feral bees do. If you are keeping bees in a small space, it is important to know whether you live in an area of Africanized bees. If the colony swarms in an Africanized bee area--normally the warmer states--this can result in a super aggressive colony that can endanger your family and nearby neighbors. Monitoring regularly for swarm cells and queen cells is absolutely necessary and a new beekeeper in a warm weather city should learn everything they can about what to do to prevent swarming and supersedure. If none of this makes sense, then don't try beekeeping until you have fully researched it.

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

The Editors's picture

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

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

The Editors's picture

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!).

Raising Bees in New York

Check out this fellow, Eric. He has a YouTube show called, 'Garden Fork.'

He raises bees in Brooklyn and other parts of the state.

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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