Beekeeping 101

Think You Want to Be a Beekeeper?
There are beginning beekeepers, recreational beekeepers, commercial beekeepers and all sorts in between. But how do you know if any of it is for you? Here are some questions to ask before diving into the hive.

  1. bees on frameIs my family supportive? Beekeeping is a family experience. Make sure your family members are on board. In spite of your efforts, more bees will be seen in the yard, by water sources and probably in the garage. Is anyone allergic or hyper sensitive either to stings or suffer from insect phobias?

  2. Have you talked with your neighbors? While you may not need their permission, it will NOT improve relationships if you don't ask for their input, especially if they have negative concerns. This will be your bees' neighborhood and it should be a good environment.

  3. Have you checked regarding local ordinances? Municipalities have different rules and regulations about beekeeping. Review local requirements carefully. There may be requirements of registration, identification and location.

  4. How do I keep people safe from stings near my hive? Create walking paths, planting paths and play paths that steer away from the hive.

  5. How do I pick a good location for the hive? Like us, bees need water and a diverse diet of pollen and nectar in order to be healthy. You must have a nearby water source. Bees need a variety of continuous flowering plants to provide nectar and pollen. Bees will forage for about 2 miles from the hive (unless they need to travel farther to find what they need), so you have to consider what is around you. Bees like sunny spots protected from the wind.

  6. How long before I can harvest honey? Be patient and don't harvest your hive's honey the first year. Bees make honey so that they don't starve during the winter months.

  7. How much will it cost? Beekeeping is not a hands off hobby nor inexpensive. While the major costs are up front i.e. suit, smoker, boxes and bees, there will be continuous costs associated with caring for your bees. The short answer? Between $500 and $600. (See chart.)

  8. How much time will it take to keep bees? The answer depends on where you live, what food is available and the time of year. The first year is the most time intensive because the bees don't have any established food stores, so their diet needs to be supplemented with sugar water and that can be time consuming.

Item Cost*
Hive (including cover, inner cover, body, shallow, frames, screened bottom) $203
Smoker $35
Bee Suit $120
Hive Tool $7
Gloves $10
Mite Treatment $35
Bees $105-150
Total $515-560

*Start-up costs from Bayer beekeeper Veldon Sorenson

If your answers to the questions above have led you to conclude that maybe beekeeping isn't for you, don't worry! There are many ways for you to support honey bees including the Feed a Bee initiative. Consider planting a garden with bee attractant flowers or simply sharing the story of how our food is pollinated by honey bees and the stressors they currently face.

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