Are you considering beekeeping? There are a few things you need to consider before getting bees. Welcome Liz from Eight Acres is sharing her wisdom and experience on beekeeping – before you get bees.
A beehive (or two) is an excellent addition to a homestead, even in an urban area, as they don’t take up much space. Bees not only provide honey, but also pollination services and beeswax. Since we’ve had a couple of beehives near our vegetable garden I’ve had the best crop of pumpkins and capsicums since I started growing vegetables, which I am sure is due to flowers being pollinated more effectively. I also use the beeswax to make salves and we sell the excess honey. Bees have worked out really well so far, however, getting bees is a big decision and there’s a few things that you should consider first.
Beekeeping – Things to Consider Before You Get Bees
Do you have time?
Beekeeping does involve a time commitment, and its in the busiest part of the year for most homesteaders, so do you really want to add another chore to your summer job list? When you are first learning how to care for bees, its important to inspect your hives every few weeks to look for changes, check for pests and decide when to harvest honey. As you become more experienced you will be able to judge how weather conditions and flora will have affected your hives and won’t have to check them as often. So far managing our bees has taken up more of my time than I expected.
You will also need time to learn about bees. You need to read as much as you can, visit people with bees or join your local beekeeping club. The more you understand about the bees the easier you will find it to care for them appropriately, and this all takes time. I’ve listed recommended beekeeping resources in this post.
Are you allergic to bee stings?
It might sound obvious, and if you know you are very allergic to bee stings you probably won’t be interested in keeping bees, but some people don’t actually know if they are allergic. And there seem to be different degrees of reactions. My husband didn’t know if he was allergic before we got our bees, but he has been stung several times now and hardly feels it. Personally I find the stings very painful, although not life-threatening, and I do my best to avoid angry bees. It’s a good idea to put together a bees ting first-aid kit just in case, with antihistamine tablets and cream, aloe vera gel and cool packs.
Can you afford all the equipment?
Beehives are expensive, and beginner beekeepers can be tempted to skimp on other equipment after spending so much on the bees. Apart from the hives, you will also need a protective veil and a smoker (as a minimum). I would also recommend a jacket and gloves to ensure you don’t get stung (more experienced beekeepers learn to go without, but until you know the bees well, this is risky).
For extracting the honey, you don’t have to use a rotary extractor, you can just filer honeycomb through a
sieve. You will need a hive tool and bee brush for basic hive management. If you hope to expand by creating more hives, you will need to keep buying hive boxes, frames and foundation (unless you chose to use a top-bar beekeeping method).
If you decide that bees aren’t for you at the moment, there are a few things you can do to get most of the benefits for none of the effort! Firstly you can plant lots of flowers in your garden to attract and feed pollinating insects, including honey bees. You can also encourage solitary pollinators to live in your garden by building bee hotels. Finally, you can approach your local beekeeping club and ask if anyone would like to keep a hive at your place. They will likely pay you in honey, and you get pollination for free also.
Liz lives on eight acres in south east Queensland, Australia, with her husband Peter and two dogs. They have a passion for small-scale organic farming and producing and eating real food. They keep chickens, beef steers, two jersey cows and a big vegetable garden. Liz writes a blog about their farm to both inspire and help others who are interested in self-sufficiency, sustainability and permaculture. You can read more about their beekeeping endeavors here.