What a wonderful, exciting and educational last two weeks I’ve spent. I’ve been at Bee Class. Well, on Saturdays anyway. I’m taking a class set up by my state extension service. If you have never kept bees before, or are keeping bees but have never taken a class, I can’t stress enough how much you will get out of a good beekeeping course. I had all kinds of misconceptions about keeping bees and getting started right. Taking the class before I bought all the equipment was definitely a good move. I’m sure it has saved me a pile of money. And a lot of work.
Don, a friend at Church, told me 2 or 3 years ago that he was going to start raising bees. That kind of put that ‘bee in my bonnet’ so to speak, and I wanted to keep bees too. But he strongly encouraged me to take a Start Beekeeping course first. So finally, this year, when the bee hives in my area were moved and my garden suffered, (NO NOT THAT!) I decided now was a good time to do it. My husband and I discussed it. We even picked out a place to put them, and I signed up for the class. It’s really good to know what you are getting into so I wanted to give you a few things to consider before you took the plunge.
There are many reasons to raise bees. Like me maybe you want to have pollinators for your garden. Maybe you want to produce your own honey. Maybe you are interested in helping preserve the healthy bee population. Or maybe you want to make some money. Whatever your reason, think about why you are doing it, and make sure you know how to accomplish your goals. You may approach bee keeping in a different way, depending on your end goal.
One of the important things the class will teach you is the law regarding your bees. It would not be a good thing to spend a lot of time and money on bee keeping, just to discover you can’t keep bees in your area or by the method you had planned on. Also, you need to know about liability issues.
If you are not prepared to plunk down $300 to $500 I would forget about raising bees right now. This is not a ‘put out a box and they will come’ proposition. There is a lot of equipment to acquire if you wish to get off on the right foot. Getting the right equipment in the first place, will save you time and money and a lot of aggravation in the long run.
As I mentioned above, I had picked out a spot already before I took the class. On the first day I learned that, for the health of my bees, and for legal reasons, the place I picked out would not be satisfactory at all. The class taught me how to correctly place my hive. It will save me from a lot of work fighting off pests.
Another misconception of mine. I figured bees would need a few hours a couple of times a year. Nope! You need to plan on checking them about once a week. And they will take about 1 hour of your time per hive. Do realize, that all of that time is not spent in the hive. It takes considerable time to suit up, start the smoker, clean things, fix things, keep records etc. That’s before you get to the honey extraction.
Make sure that everyone in your household is on board. This is an endeavor that you will need some help with from time to time. Some people have a visceral hatred to bees. And people do get stung once in a while. You don’t want animosity toward you because you brought ‘those horrible creatures’ into their yard.
Once again, that visceral reaction I mentioned. It extends to the neighbors. Find out if you have any that are (actually) allergic or have that intense hatred towards bees. If they do, it will be aimed at you and you don’t want bees to come between you and your peaceful neighborhood. You don’t want a re-run of the Hatfields and McCoys.
By taking the class, I was able to see the equipment up close. I discovered the “normal” bee boxes are very large and will be heavy when full. I decided that a smaller version would be better for my needs. The class gave me a chance to see the equipment experienced beekeepers use, and why they like it better than other choices. What a young man might use, an older woman might not find satisfactory.
This is a very important part of taking a class and joining a local bee organization. Each locality has it’s unique pest problems. If I read a book or an article on pinterest from someone in Minnesota, it may not apply to the problems, and ways of combating them, in Florida where I live. Being able to bounce ideas off others in your area is a great advantage. You can also find out about new things that pop up and get ahead of things that might become a real problem before you even heard about it.
Believe it or not, one of the problems of raising bees is the honey. Extracting it is a large chore. And then what? You can make quite a lot of honey from just one hive. You probably can’t eat it all yourself. Are you going to give it away? Sell it? Make things out of it? That is something to think about before you begin as it may change the way you keep your bees and the equipment you use. Believe it or not, this is a major reason people stop raising bees. They find they are swimming in honey and can’t give it all away.
And all this I have learned at only the half way point of the class! So take my advice. If you are thinking about raising bees contact your state or county extension service or go on line to find your counties beekeepers association to find out about a class near you. You will be glad you did. Also, to learn more about beekeeping check out the book Backyard Beekeeper (*link below). This has a wealth of information and comes highly recommended. When you are ready, here are some other resources you might like to check out.
Happy Beekeeping & Have a Ducky Day!