by Prepared Grammy
I have only been a beekeeper for about four years, but I vividly remember wanting bees when I was five years old. My grandma would take me to get honey from a beekeeper in town. I would walk to the hives and watch the bees while my sisters were too scared to get out of the car. Freddy, the beekeeper, would warn me that I was going to get stung, but I didn’t care. Bees fascinated me. He would teach me a little something every time we bought honey, and he’d save some honeycomb for me. I loved chewing the comb.
I realize that not everyone is as fascinated with bees as I am, but you may be wondering if you should get started with beekeeping. Here are a few things to consider.
Should You Keep Bees?
-Are you or any family members allergic to bee stings? If so, how serious is it? Remember, your reaction will probably become worse with each sting, and you WILL be stung. Even with all of the precautions I take, I get stung. I’m not afraid to be stung, but if this concerns you, don’t get bees.
-Are you willing to invest the time necessary to keep bees? I had this wonderful dream of buying some boxes, putting a few bees inside, watching them do their thing, and enjoying the honey they so willingly gave me. I was wrong. Beekeeping is a lot of work. How much work? That depends on your philosophy of raising bees. Some people are very hands-off, while others are constantly doing something with their hives. I’m sort of middle-of-the-road. Bees have been around for a long time, and they know what to do. However, our world isn’t like it was, and many factors in modern society have affected them. This means I spend time caring for my hives.
-Do you have the funds necessary for beekeeping? It doesn’t matter what hobby I’ve undertaken, it always takes more time and more money than I initially thought. That’s life. The supplies you need may be costly. This cost depends on where you buy, what you buy, and how much you’re willing to do for yourself. There are complete hive kits, both assembled and unassembled. You can get plans to build your own hives, and can do this if you have the tools to do so. Even if you build your own hives, you will still need other supplies.
-Are there zoning restrictions where you are? I live in a rural area, so this doesn’t affect me. This may not be the case where you live.
-Last but not least, will bees survive well where you are? This is becoming more of a problem for me. As I said earlier, I live in a rural area. I am surrounded by fields and hay pastures. The farmers around me are increasingly using chemicals to treat their crops. I am registered to be contacted when spraying is being done near my hives, but I have still lost bees. This system of warning is only as good as the least concerned person holding the chemicals. Bees may travel two miles or more from the hive to forage. Will your bees have enough to gather to survive? What else will they come into contact with that may harm them?
-I would suggest talking to local beekeepers or joining a local bee club. People who actually keep bees in your area can tell you what to expect. I have found that most beekeepers are happy to teach others. I have learned a lot from reading books and articles on the Internet and watching YouTube videos, but nothing beats talking to neighbors and friends. They can tell you what happens where you are.
-Make sure your bees have plants from which to forage. This means they need a food supply all year. If you don’t have blooming plants all year, you will need to plant some. I am fortunate that my area of Southern Illinois has something blooming all year except in the winter. During this time the bees eat from their honey-stores and my supplemental feeding for them.
-Bees also need water. If you don’t have a natural water source, you need to give them one. A small fishpond, birdbath, or other small container-type water source is sufficient.
Equipment and Bees
-You can spend a lot of money on equipment. Remember: More expensive doesn’t always mean it’s better. However, in some cases, you get what you pay for. The cheapest supplies in my area aren’t worth buying. They simply won’t last. I found some hive supplies online with great reviews. These were my first hives. They’re good but expensive. I later heard of an Amish man a couple of hours away that makes great hives for a very reasonable price. I now buy all of my hive equipment from him.
-You will also need other miscellaneous supplies, protective clothing, equipment to harvest honey, and containers for honey storage.
-Bees may be purchased in boxes or nucs, or you can capture swarms.
Like many of you, I’m trying to prepare to care for my family when things get bad. Part of my preps is food storage. I love sweets, and honey can be a wonderful sweetener. It can be stored indefinitely when done correctly. It also has medicinal uses. In addition to the benefits of honey, having more bees nearby has improved pollination of my garden plants. I have only sold a few jars of my honey so far. However, I have given a lot away to family and friends. My grandkids especially love eating “Grammy’s honey” on hot biscuits. After having our own honey, we can’t eat the stuff from the store. It pales in comparison, and there is some evidence that it isn’t 100% honey.
Freddy, the beekeeper I knew when I was little, passed away last year. I had the opportunity to talk to him shortly before his passing and tell him that I was a beekeeper. He was happy to hear this news, as he remembered how much I loved bees as a child. He also gave me lots of advice. I sat and listened to him for over an hour telling me what to expect and how to deal with problems I might face. This was the last conversation I had with him. His children told me that it meant so much to him to be able to teach one more person about beekeeping. Maybe beekeeping is for you.