For as long as you can remember, you’ve always wanted to try beekeeping. Now you’re finally ready to start. But if you’ve never kept bees before, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed about the whole thing.
We want to point you in the right direction by giving you a list of things that’s good to know before starting. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel, and the better you’ll do in your beekeeping endeavors!
1. Is Beekeeping Legal?
At this point, the only thing stopping you from keeping bees is your local laws. From what we know, beekeeping is mostly legal in the US and Canada. However, there may be restrictions you have to follow.
Restrictions can include things like how many beehives you’re allowed to have, or where you’re allowed to place your beehives. Before you start, make sure to check your local laws. The last thing you want is to spend all that time and money on preparation, only to find out that beekeeping is totally illegal in your area!
2. Do You Have Family and Neighborhood Support?
Even if you’re allowed to keep bees legally, you may give up on the idea if your family or neighbors aren’t on board with it. It could be because someone has a serious allergy with bee stings. It’s a good idea to get everybody in your family checked out by a physician.
With your neighbors, talk to them and try to address any concerns they may have. Some neighbors will show enthusiasm, some won’t care, and some won’t like your idea at all. The last group is the tricky one. They may just have some misconceptions that you can address. For instance, what they’re really concerned about are wasps rather than honey bees, or they’re worried that your honey bees will somehow bother them. If your neighbors remain unconvinced, then you may have to make some compromises.
3. Why Do You Want to Keep Bees?
Do you want to keep bees for the honey? To pollinate your garden? To preserve the honey bee population? To make some money? People keep bees for many reasons and knowing why you want to do it helps you focus in on your goals. Besides, it’ll influence how you approach beekeeping. For instance, someone who’s looking to sell their honey will have a different budget, need different equipment, and keep different notes than someone who’s doing it as a hobby.
4. General Understanding of Bees
The most successful beekeepers are the ones that try to learn everything they can about bees and beekeeping. There’s a lot to learn. The good news is that there are a ton of resources you can use.
For starters, we suggest signing up for a beginner’s workshop and joining your local beekeeping association where you’ll meet regularly to share information and insight. Find an experienced beekeeper in your area and offer to help out to gain some hands-on experience. At the same time, pick up a few quality books and magazines on beekeeping and try to learn as much as you can on your own.
5. How Much Time They Take
Beekeeping takes more time than most people imagine. They figure that once they install their hives, they can just let their bees run with it. The reality is that you have to check on your hives once every two weeks or so, for about an hour each time.
You might have to do various little things like providing fresh water for your bees. And then there are bigger jobs like cleaning your equipment, extracting honey, and learning and researching before starting and on the go. While it’s not like caring for a dog, you still need to put in the time.
6. Where to Put Your Bees
You should think of a suitable location to put your hives before getting them. This location should abide by local zoning rules. And it would ideally be somewhat screened, both shaded and in the sun, close to sources of nectar, and easily accessible for you with all your beekeeping tools.
7. What’s Your Budget?
Beekeeping isn’t cheap. You’re looking at spending around $1,000 on equipment alone, and another few hundred dollars on a nuc of bees. And to prevent the spread of disease, the sale of used beekeeping equipment is discouraged and usually regulated, so you can forget about saving money by picking up someone’s old equipment. If you’re not prepared to spend four figures on beekeeping, then this probably won’t work out.
8. How to Keep Everyone Safe
While beekeeping isn’t an extreme sport, it can still be lethal. We’ve heard of one too many instances where a beekeeper was stung and – unlike the previous times – had a severe allergic reaction. Had it not been for their EpiPen, they wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale.
Know the signs of an allergic reaction, keep a sting kit on hand, and talk to your doctor about your beekeeping endeavor and about prescribing you with an epinephrine auto-injector. Other than that, be careful lifting a loaded hive and watch out for heat strokes – that bee suit can be brutal in the summer!
9. How to Deal with Pests and Diseases
Besides knowing how to keep you, your family, and your neighbors safe, it’s important to know how to keep your bees safe. This includes practicing good hygiene and cleaning your equipment regularly to prevent problems from pests and diseases.
You should also learn how to identify and deal with Varroa mites, nosema, American foulbrood, European foulbrood, parasites, etc. It may mean getting rid of your bees and your equipment. But it’s a necessary evil. If your hives get sick and you don’t deal with them properly, it can do harm to other beekeepers in the area.
10. What to Do With the Honey
New beekeepers look forward to when they can finally harvest and enjoy their first batch of honey. This takes time as your bees need the full share at the beginning. But soon enough, you’ll have more than you can consume. So what’ll you do with the excess?
Besides, you should figure out what to do with all that beeswax. Excess honey and beeswax is actually one of the reasons people quit beekeeping. They become overwhelmed with the work it takes to extract, process, and distribute (give or sell) it all. So make sure you go into this with an “exit” plan that works for you.
You’re Ready to Keep Bees!
Despite all the things you have to consider before starting, beekeeping is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities you’ll encounter. Remember: Even the most experienced beekeepers don’t have it all figured out. Don’t go too hard on yourself when you make mistakes along the way. Do you best, don’t give up, keep learning, and enjoy it!
Have Fun Out There!