Beekeeping/Why Keep Bees
When people think of hobbies, certain things come to mind, like stamp collecting, painting, or knitting. Few people, however, think of beekeeping. After all, who wants to be responsible for literally thousand of creepy, crawly, flying insects that are known to have the ability to sting? Well if you are reading this Wiki book, chances are you do.
Keeping bees, when properly done, can be a unique and highly rewarding pastime. Not only can beekeeping be entertaining and educational, when done on the correct scale it is also often a profitable hobby. Not only will your bees create honey and other products for you to harvest, but if you garden your fruit and vegetable harvest will also flourish.
Beekeeping, despite the many misconceptions, is a safe and easy hobby to start. It is a good hobby to start with family or friends.
Benefits of Beekeeping[edit | edit source]
Honey[edit | edit source]
Man has been motivated to keep bees because of the reward of honey. Honey was the primary sweetener before store bought sugar was available to the masses, and honey is likely the main draw for many beekeepers. Large quantities of honey is produced by certain types of bees, called the honey bees; certain other types of bees such as the stingless bees (i.e. Melipona beecheii) produce moderate amounts of honey. Other types of bees such as bumblebees, and solitary bees do not produce honey.
As any beekeeper that has had at least one good harvest can tell you, there is no other honey that can even compare with that which comes from your own hive. Also, depending on the plants that are used by the bees, the honey you make can have its own distinct flavour. Since you are able to grow your own plants in the vicinity, or even move the hive to another location that has other plants, you can produce honey with different types of flavour.
Depending on location, weather and the experience of the individual beekeeper, it is not unheard of to harvest an excess of 100 pounds of pure honey. This means, for the more entrepreneurial-minded beekeeper, that there would be plenty of honey to sell. Depending on the market available per region this could mean a great deal of profit. In example, in the Midwestern United States honey sells for approximately four dollars a pound in bulk; this could mean as much as $400 gross revenue from a single healthy hive.
Pollination[edit | edit source]
Any gardener worth their weight in top soil knows the benefits of pollinating insects; having a large number in a central location is just that much more beneficial. A majority of plant survival is dependent on pollination, and bees do nearly eighty percent of all pollination, of which most of this occurs by solitary bees (not honey bees). Both honey bees and solitary bees can be kept by beekeepers, although most still focus primarily on keeping honey bees. However, even in the event that honey bees are used, pollination is still aided and any increased pollination means larger harvests, and larger harvestable fruits and vegetables. By simply having bees one can expect their well-maintained garden to produce leaps and bounds over what it did before with poor or even barely adequate pollination.
Improving Health[edit | edit source]
Although no specific studies can be cited, many beekeepers claim that tending to their bees relieves stress. Some beekeepers even take a few afternoons during a good season to simply sit and watch the actions of their hives. Watching bees coming and going, with all their hustle and bustle, is quite the relaxing experience.
There’s always something exciting happening in the hive[edit | edit source]
Beekeepers are constantly learning: Flight patterns, comb-building habits, bee communication, bee lining, and brood-rearing are just some of the many fascinating topics you’ll learn about through keeping bees. A colony is a living organism, with every bee from the newest worker to the all-important queen operating together in harmony. Even in winter, you can listen for the gentle hum inside the hive that lets you know they’re active. You’ll learn from observing your bees at work, and learn year-round through virtual or in-person classes and beekeeping books. There’s no end to what you’ll find as you raise these fascinating fliers.
Just about anyone can keep bees[edit | edit source]
People of all ages can enjoy beekeeping, and it’s accessible to almost anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Years ago, beekeepers had to learn carpentry just to build their own hive. Now, you can buy complete beekeeping kits, and beekeeping supplies can usually be had on-demand from your equipment supplier.
Beekeeping isn’t limited by location: You can plan an apiary based on your available space whether you live in a rural, suburban, or urban setting. There are accessibility options for those with mobility issues, too. Some hives and equipment are specially designed for wheelchair accessibility, and you can alter existing hives to suit your needs. The beekeeping community offers abundant support and resources, and reaching out puts you on the path to success.
Be part of an active beekeeping community[edit | edit source]
When you become a beekeeper, you can learn from others who enjoy bees as much as you do. Your fellow beekeepers possess a wealth of information; look to them as you learn about honey bee care. Connect with the beekeeping community through social media, find your nearest beekeeping club or association, or ask nearby beekeepers if they’ll serve as your local mentor. Beekeeping associations and clubs often have loaner honey extractors and other equipment available for members to borrow when starting their new hobby.
Pollinators like honey bees are beneficial, but their future is uncertain. Honey bee and wild bee populations have faced serious challenges and threats in recent years, so keeping bees can give you a way to ensure the presence of pollinators for future generations. As part of the beekeeper community, you can spread the word about how important bees are to all of our lives. Start a neighborhood bee club, encourage discussion about pollinator health, and invite people to observe the beekeeping process—you may even inspire others to take up the hobby!
Beekeeping helps you become a better gardener[edit | edit source]
The benefits of apiculture extend to local agriculture. Aside from their master pollination skills, bees are fantastic teachers. As a beekeeper, many of the lessons you learn about honey bee care apply to plants as well. Beekeepers must pay close attention to the weather conditions and make hive adjustments, which can also translate to improving weather-related care for crops. Beekeeping also teaches you about the basic process of cross-pollination, how to identify beneficial and unfriendly insects, and proper pesticide use, which will also help you manage the health of your garden. Plugging into the worlds of beekeeping and gardening at the same time will keep you totally in tune with the natural world around you.
Urban beekeeping impacts the neighborhood ecosystem[edit | edit source]
No longer limited to rural areas, urban beekeeping is more popular than ever. Urban beekeepers are setting up hives in residential and city areas that once seemed inhospitable to honey bees. Because of the high flower biodiversity in a city location, with some considerations for bee and human safety urban bees often thrive. Urban beekeeping brings nature closer, so you can enjoy a little bit of serenity in the middle of busy city life.
Urban beekeeping is a hobby that only requires a small footprint—rooftops are popular for city bee hives. Your bees can improve the neighborhood’s ecosystem as they pollinate plants in parks and gardens, which promotes fruiting and seed production. Community garden members may even provide space for hives because they’ll reap benefits, too.
Harvest beeswax and other products of the hive[edit | edit source]
Though most people think first about honey from the hive, beeswax is valuable as well. Wax is the natural material used by young worker bees when building honeycomb. Once rendered—melted and filtered—beeswax can be used to produce natural products for use at home, to give as gifts, or to include on your sales table:
- Make lotions, lip balms, soap, and other skincare products.
- You can DIY your own beeswax products for the home, including wax food wraps and wood furniture polish or cutting board conditioner.
- Craft beeswax candles in a variety of shapes and styles, from simple taper and votive candles to detailed molded candle designs that look hand-carved.
- Because it contains few skin irritants but a few antimicrobial compounds, beeswax is a favorite ingredient in beauty products, especially for people with sensitive skin.