Guest Post: Keeping BeesBees. The very word strikes fear into people. The thought of small insects with stinger makes people vacate the area. I admit I was never keen on bees, I avoided them and therefore they avoided me. I never thought I’d ever get more intimate with them.But I have grown to know, like, and respect them. A few years ago I was experimenting making honey wine (mead) and decided I wanted to get my honey from a more local source. Off I went to attend a local bee keeper meeting and, pardon the pun, was stung with the idea of becoming a beekeeper myself.
Speaking of being stung, Yes, I have been stung by my bees. They have stung me 5 times in my 3 years of keeping bees. Mostly because I was hurrying and not taking time to be calm and work slowly with the bees. If you be calm and careful and know when the best times are to work with them, they will not sting you. Their job to to keep the hive running, they are not crazed insects just waiting to sting anything that comes by.
Bees are amazing creatures. They can take care of themselves quite well, they have been doing it for thousands of years. A beekeeper just helps them by providing a nice home, protecting them from marauding animals, and maybe feed them during the hard times of the winter.
In return they give us wax, propolis, pollen, and of course, Honey! Honey is the only food created by insects that humans eat. And what a wonderful treat it is, it never goes bad, it has amazing properties, and tastes so darn good.
How do you start? First you need to learn, the Internet is great for that. Then you need equipment, a few basic hand tools, a mask/veil/jacket/suit (depending on your comfort level) and a hive. A starter hive can cost around $200, less if you are handy with tools.
Now the fun part! Getting the bees! This can be free if you catch a swarm (an extremely exciting thing to do!), or buying a package or an established hive. A package is about $70, a establish hive more.
I know, the initial costs sound like a lot. But you can sell products of the hive, just don’t expect to make back your initial costs the first year. The bees need a year to get their hive established.
Once you have a hive, you can work with them every few days or very seldom. It all depends on what you want to do and what the bees will allow (they tend to get irritated if you mess with them every day or two). I like visiting them every weekend, I might go into the hive and check them out, or I might only sit next to the hive and watch them coming and going about their buzzy lives.
As you spend more time with the bees, you will become more comfortable. They can be a fun hobby, people are always asking questions about them. And after a year, you’ll be in the sweet stuff!