Beekeeping is a wonderful and very rewarding experience. I guess you could say I was destined to become a beekeeper. After all, I was named after a honeybee. Over the years, I have had so many people ask me how to get started. Today I have decided to compile a list of ideas and thoughts to contemplate for those of you considering getting into the hobby.
Research if you are able to keep bees in your area. Inquire at your local government and see if beekeeping is allowed. Some towns require permits. Some require hive registrations and other places have zero restrictions in place.
Read all that you can. Learn about beekeeping by checking out introductory books at your local library or at the local bookstore.
Join the local club and/or take a class. Check and see if there is a local beekeeper’s organization near you. If so, often many of them offer introductory classes and pair you up with a mentor.
Ask yourself, why you would like to keep bees. There are many reasons people keep bees. Some people keep bees for the honey, others keep bees to help with local pollination and others keep bees to aid with the global honeybee crisis.
Are you afraid of being stung? You will get stung no matter how many of layers of protective garb you are wearing. Yes, even in a full bee suit with gloves. Does this matter to you? Are you okay with being stung?
Are you allergic to insect bites or stings? If this is the case, before jumping into the hobby, you might consider getting tested by an allergist to determine your reaction to honeybee stings. If your reaction is mild, there are plenty of beekeepers that tend their bees with an Epi-pen in their pocket and cell phone just in case. If you are severely allergic, you might rethink your plans.
Be a courteous neighbor. Consider asking what your neighbors think? Do they mind you tucking hives into your yard? Be ready to explain and educate them why you would like to keep bees.
Do you have a good location? Do you have a good spot in your yard for your bees? If not, is there another location where you can keep them? Honeybees will fly up to 5 miles as they forage for nectar and pollen but their hives should be placed in a level location, receive some sun during the day and be sheltered from strong winds. The hives should also be easy to access year-round.
Can you lift at least 25 pounds? Some hive when filled with honey can get very heavy during harvesting time. This especially happens with the most popular hive design in the U.S.- the Langstroth. Beekeeping does requires some physical strength. If you think this might be an issue, I would recommend researching other hive designs that require less lifting and strength.
Can you tend to the hives year round? Do you live in one location all year-round or do you snowbird? If you are away for long periods of time, it is a good idea to have a back-up beekeeper to help check in on your hives.
Can you afford it? Getting started with beekeeping can be an expensive hobby often costing around $300 for the hive and around another $100 for bees during the first year (depending if you purchase a nuc or a package). Most folks recommend starting out with two hives for a variety of important reasons.
Are you a beekeeper? Is there anything else you think folks should consider?
About the author: Melissa is a backyard chicken keeper, beekeeper, gardener, crafter and cook. She can be found sharing on her own blog, Tilly’s Nest, as well as on Country Living Magazine, HGTV, Grit, Community Chickens, and Keeping Backyard Bees. Her first book, A Kids’ Guide to Keeping Chickens, will be available March 2015 from Storey Publishing.