10 Questions to Consider Before Starting Beekeeping
So you’ve been thinking about becoming a beekeeper for quite some time. You might have friends who have been telling you for years that you have got to get into this fascinating hobby or perhaps you have concerns about the future of bees on the planet and wanted to do your bit. For me it was expanding the produce from my hobby farm and more specifically collecting honey to put in my home brew instead of sugar! Whatever your reason you absolutely must get on board with beekeeping. Here I have compiled some basic questions to consider before receiving your first colony. Enjoy!
- Are you allergic to bee stings? Or are any of your family members?
Imagine getting your first package of bees and a few days into your new hobby you find out you’re allergic to bee stings by having to make a mad dash to the local ED to get an emergency dose of Adrenaline. Not a great start to a new hobby. Given that only 1 or 2 people per thousand will have such a reaction it is unlikely, but you should expect that bee stings are part of keeping bees and may give you unpleasant reactions. I end up with swelling, redness, headaches and a bruising sensation after most stings.
- Are you allowed to keep bees where you live?
Check with local authorities as to any rules or regulations in your area. But remember, just because you are allowed to keep bees doesn’t mean everyone should.
- Have you checked with your neighbours if they mind?
I get into a habit of always checking with neighbours wherever I would like to keep my bees. Not only do you avoid cranky visits from them because they have a front porch full of bees (swarming) but they will even keep a look out for you. All for the cost of a tub of honey once or twice a year.
- Where will you put your beehives?
I put my first bee hive in my orchard (makes sense right?) and later found that their flight path was directly in my face every time I walked through the orchard gate. I shifted their location and this eliminated that issue.
It is important to find a logical place to put your hives. Early morning sun will get them up early and make your bees productive. Hot afternoon sun could make them struggle on days over 30 degrees Celsius. Too much wind can make access awkward. Too close to your boundary might frustrate your neighbours. There are ways around all of these issues and even keeping bees in the tightest of backyards is not usually a big problem. Urban beekeeping is extremely popular and successful. Why not put them on your roof?
- How much honey will I harvest?
Like any form of produce there might be times where you don’t get any yield (honey). This is an essential attitude to have. If honey supplies are dwindling going in to autumn the best thing might be to leave it all for the bees. This is often a good approach for the first year of beekeeping. You need to be in it for their wellbeing above all else!
- Do you have the necessary equipment to get you started?
Many beekeeping supply shops will have a starter kit that gets you up and running quickly. This is the best way to get going.
As a minimum you will need:
- Hive boxes
- Hive cover (inner and outer)
- Bottom Board
- Entrance Reducer
- Varroa Screen (unless you live in Australia)
- Bee suit (full length is best)
- Stainless Steel Smoker
- Gloves (gauntlet style)
- Hive Tool
Be careful inheriting gear from others. It’s great to get the tools and safety equipment but a free or cheap offer to start with someone else’s hives and frames might set you off with a box full of bees and disease. It doesn’t cost too much to start with new boxes and frames.
- Do you have enough time for this hobby?
This is not easy to answer but it is often less than you think. It is also very seasonal. During spring and summer your hives would probably benefit from a fortnightly check that might take an hour. Honey harvesting in summer and autumn/fall normally takes me the best part of a day by the time I set up, collect the frames, extract, return the frames and clean the gear. Over winter it is time to do some gear maintenance and ready yourself for the spring.
I know that I just mentioned in the last paragraph that it doesn’t take much time but I should confess, this hobby has the power to captivate – you won’t be able to help yourself but do more and then get more hives and then teach and tell others about your new found interest.
- Are there any beekeeping clubs in your area?
This is a great way to get started and accelerate your learning. You will be surrounded by people with a great deal of experience that will guide you through the many different steps involved in beekeeping. Do an internet search and hopefully you won’t have to travel too far to find one. This was one of my biggest regrets when I started beekeeping.
- Should you go on a beekeeping short course?
Absolutely! You are about to deal with tens of thousands of stinging insects of which are a very complex specie. Get educated quickly by attending a course. I did this and it gave me the confidence to get my first colony. It was also a great way to connect with other new beekeepers.
- What books should you get?
Old or new they will all offer something. I have a handful of different books and they all give varied ways to do things. In the world of beekeeping the more ideas and options you have the better.
So this should give you something to think about. I wish you well on your future beekeeping endeavours
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Thanks as always
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