Questions I Had—Beekeeping

Beekeeping at home is an emerging hobby so we were curious what it takes to start doing it ourselves and what impact it might have on the environment. The first thing we learned is that it doesn’t require a lot of space so there are relatively few inhibitors to starting in yourself. That doesn't mean, of course, that you should jump into the project blind. We set out to find answers to all our DIY beekeeping questions (see the video above) and below you’ll find a few simple steps we learned to help you keep your own bees and see the colony thrive.

1 - Do your homework

The more you know, the better it will all go. So soak up as much beekeeping knowledge as you can. Here’s a good list to get you started:

  • Learn about different types of honeybees and their behaviors
  • Learn about the local laws or requirements for beekeeping in your area
  • Learn about support resources. Some of the best info comes from talking to other beekeepers so, if you don’t know any, check this list of US Beekeeping Associations.
  • Learn about the equipment needed and find a good bee vendor (local or online— yes, bees can be shipped in the mail)

2 - Get the gear

Beekeeping requires some financial investment so budget appropriately and purchase the necessary gear before getting your bees. Some places offer “starter kits” that include everything needed for someone just starting out (about $300) but here’s a quick rundown of the beekeeping essentials:

  • Hive body (or bodies)
  • 5-10 frames
  • Leather gloves
  • Bee suit with veil
  • Smoker (and fuel)
  • One hive tool
  • One bee brush
  • Hive boxes for at least two hives (hives have a relatively high failure rate so be prepared for that but don’t let it discourage you).
  • Bees. Remember, they are sold in the spring.

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3 - Make a caretaking plan

It takes some diligence to make your hive thrive and seasonality matters, so set a calendar and assign responsibilities (if you’re working on the project with someone else). This doesn’t have to be too extensive. Just make sure to keep track of everything you need to do until you get the hang out of it. Here are some of the most important things to plan on taking care of:

  • Checking the hive regularly. At the beginning, you should check at least weekly to ensure the queen is okay. Once the hive is established, you might check less frequently but will still want to regularly take a look to ensure the hive is thriving and determine when you need to add boxes. Bees forage during daylight, so check the hive during the day as much as possible when fewer of them are home.
  • Feeding the bees until the hive is well-established.
  • Getting stung (but, as long as you’re not allergic, don’t let that stop you). It’s inevitable that you’ll get an occasional sting but you shouldn’t fear the bees. Stay calm around them and, generally speaking, they’ll be calm around you.

That may seem like a lot but don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s a hobby with a number of payoffs so persevere through the initial work and reap the benefits. Although keeping bees on your own is not likely to contribute meaningfully to the worldwide decline in bee population, there is a lot to be gained from the practice itself. An increased education and awareness of this species is likely to enhance general awareness of the interaction between animal species and humans and how that plays into our environment as a whole. And self-sustainability is a muscle worth building, even just generally speaking, because many of the most harmful environmental practices could be diminished or eliminated by less dependence on mass production and distribution.

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