Beekeeping For Beginners
Bees have been around for a long, long time, gathering nectar and pollinating flowers. They haven’t changed much since the time of the dinosaurs. And today, let’s talk about beekeeping for beginners (no matter you are from Australia, UK or America).
The insect shown in the following figure is definitely recognizable as a bee. It was caught in a flow of pine sap 30 million to 40 million years ago and is forever preserved in amber.
What is Beekeeping?
Beekeeping or apiculture is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces (including beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or “bee yard.”
Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 10,000 years ago. Beekeeping in pottery vessels began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa. Domestication is shown in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago. Simple hives and smoke were used and honey was stored in jars, some of which were found in the tombs of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that European understanding of the colonies and biology of bees allowed the construction of the movable comb hive so that honey could be harvested without destroying the entire colony.
Why are people interested in beekeeping over the centuries?
We can be quite sure that the first motivator is honey!
However, the rewards of beekeeping extend beyond honey and pollination. Bees produce other products that can be harvested and put to good use, including beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly.
Even the pollen they bring back to the hive can be harvested (it’s rich in protein and makes a healthy food supplement in our own diets).
HONEYBEE OR HONEY BEE?
This is a “tomato/tomah to” issue. The British adhere to their use of the one word: “honeybee.” The Entomological Society of America, however, prefers to use two words “honey bee.” Here’s the society’s rationale: The honey bee is a true bee, like a house fly is a true fly, and thus should be two words. A dragonfly, on the other hand, is not a fly; hence, it is one word.
Tip: Spell it both ways when web surfing. That way, you’ll cover all bases and hit all the sites!
Improving your health: Bee therapies and stress relief
Although we can’t point to any scientific studies to confirm it, we honestly believe that tending honey bees reduces stress. Working with bees is so calming and almost magical.
Any health food store proprietor can tell you the benefits of the bees’ products. Honey, pollen, royal jelly, and propolis have been a part of healthful remedies for centuries. Honey and propolis have significant antibacterial qualities.
Royal jelly is loaded with B vitamins and is widely used overseas as a dietary and fertility stimulant. Pollen is high in protein and can be used as a homeopathic remedy for seasonal pollen allergies.
Apitherapy is the use of bee products for treating health disorders. Even the bees’ venom plays an important role here — in bee-sting therapy. Venom is administered with success to patients who suffer from arthritis and other inflammatory/medical conditions. This entire area has become a science in itself and has been practiced for thousands of years in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Pollen is one of the richest and purest of natural foods, consisting of up to 35 percent protein and 10 percent sugars, carbohydrates, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins A (carotenes), B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinic acid), B5 (panothenic acid), C (ascorbic acid), H (biotin), and R (rutine).
Here’s the really neat part: Ingesting small amounts of pollen every day can actually help reduce the symptoms of pollen-related allergies — sort of a homeopathic way of inoculating yourself.
Of course you can harvest pollen from your bees and sprinkle a small amount on your breakfast cereal or in yogurt (as you might do with wheat germ). But you don’t really need to harvest the pollen itself. That’s because raw, natural honey contains pollen.
Pollen’s benefits are realized every time you take a tablespoon of honey. Eating local honey every day can relieve the symptoms of pollen-related allergies if the honey is harvested from within a 50-mile radius of where you live or from an area where the vegetation is similar to what grows in your community. Now that you have your own bees, that isn’t a problem. Allergy relief is only a sweet tablespoon away!
Determining Your Beekeeping
How do you know whether you’d make a good beekeeper? Is beekeeping the right hobby for you? Here are a few things worth considering as you ponder these issues:
- Environmental considerations: Bees are remarkable creatures that do just fine in a wide range of climates. Beekeepers can be found in areas with long, cold winters; in tropical rain forests; and in nearly every geographic region in between. If flowers bloom in your part of the world, you can keep bees. How about space requirements? You don’t need much. Many beekeepers in the heart of Manhattan have a hive or two on their rooftops or terraces. Keep in mind that bees travel one to two miles from the hive to gather pollen and nectar. They’ll forage an area as large as 6,000 acres, doing their thing. So the only space that you need is enough to accommodate the hive itself.
- Zoning and legal restrictions: Most communities are quite tolerant of beekeepers, but some have local ordinances that prohibit beekeeping or restrict the number of hives you can have. Some communities let you keep bees but ask that you register your hives with the local government. Check with local bee clubs, your town hall, your local zoning board, or your state’s Department of Agriculture (bee/pollinating insects division) to find out about what’s okay in your neighborhood.
- Costs and equipment: Honey beekeeping for beginners isn’t a very expensive hobby. You can figure on investing about $300 to $400 for a startup hive kit, equipment, and tools — less if you build your own hive from scratch in the backyard. You’ll spend around $100 or more for a package of bees and queen. For the most part, these are one-time expenses. Keep in mind, however, the potential for a return on this investment. Your hive can give you 60 to 90 pounds of honey every year. At around $8 per pound (a fair going price for all-natural, raw honey), that should give you an income of $480 to $720 per hive! Not bad, huh?
- Time and commitment: Beekeeping for beginners isn’t labor intensive. Sure, you’ll spend part of a weekend putting together your new equipment. But the actual time that you absolutely must spend with your bees is surprisingly modest. Other than your first year, you need to make only five to eight visits to your hives every year. Add to that the time you spend harvesting honey, repairing equipment, and putting things away for the season, and you’ll probably devote 35 to 40 hours a year to your hobby (more if you make a business out of it).
Now you already know ‘What is beekeeping?’ and some benefits of beekeeping. In next posts, we will further explore how to do beekeeping as a hobby and (perhaps) as a business.
A few trusted websites to learn more about beekeeping that we highly recommend:
- Perfect Bee: https://www.perfectbee.com/
- Bee Culture Magazine: https://www.beeculture.com/
- Scientific Beekeeping: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/
Originally posted 2020-08-16 23:04:32.