You have probably noticed by way of the content on this website that I am big into beekeeping. I have produced a library of content covering everything from how beekeeping works to how you can get started. I have referenced facts surrounding the collapse of bee populations around the world. I’ve talked about what governments and individual beekeepers are doing to replace those populations. In short, I have covered just about every beekeeping topic I can think of.
With all that content to look through, you might be wondering why you should start beekeeping yourself. I hope that’s the case. One of the goals of this website is to encourage people to get into the beekeeping hobby. As referenced in some of my other posts, the future of beekeeping really rests in the amateur beekeepers who do what they do simply for the pleasure of it.
There are commercial beekeeping operations that do very good work. But the majority of beekeepers are hobbyists. They are the nuts and bolts of the entire beekeeping community worldwide. So yes, you should start beekeeping. Why? Because it’s awesome!
Nothing to Be Afraid Of
Are you one of the many people across this giant rock we call home that has a natural fear of bees? If so, the first thing I want you to know is that your fear is completely rational. Nature has built in to every creature a desire to avoid pain and discomfort. It is part of the survival process. But when you are talking honeybees, there really is nothing to be afraid of.
It’s safe to say that most of us learned to fear bees not because of some personal experience, but because of something someone else told us. This systemic fear of bees we all grow up with is not made any better by Hollywood films portraying bees as killer insects on the hunt for human flesh.
The truth of honeybees is that they are largely docile creatures. They rarely go on the offensive, only choosing to attack when they believe a hive is directly threatened. Bees are happy to have humans around just as long as those humans don’t mess things up.
There are plenty of beekeepers who have been doing it so long they no longer wear protective clothing. They may get stung from time to time, but they are living proof that honeybees are not looking to swarm their human keepers in hot rage.
You might be interested to know that when honeybees do swarm, it is almost always because they are looking for a new place to build a nest. A queen will leave an already crowded nest in search of a safe place to breed; her drones and workers will follow. They all stop to rest when she rests. That’s why you might see a swarm. Give them a little time to rest and they will go on their way.
Now on to my 4 great reasons to start beekeeping. I hope they encourage you to even just consider beekeeping as a hobby:
1. Beekeeping is Fascinating
Now that we have the fear thing out of the way, let’s talk about some of the reasons to start beekeeping – other than the fact that it’s awesome. At the top of the list is the fact that beekeeping is also a fascinating endeavor. Anybody who has been doing it for couple of years can attest to having learned a tremendous number of interesting things.
It is probably reasonable to assume that the average person knows very little about bees. They know that bees make honey and pollinate flowers, but that’s about it. The beekeeper knows a lot more. Furthermore, a good beekeeper never stops learning. Education is an ongoing process when you’re managing multiple hives season after season.
Here’s just a quick sampling of the things you can learn about bees:
Their Social Order
Bee colonies are not collections of thousands of bees all randomly doing their own thing. Colonies are very well organized by function. Every colony has a queen whose main purpose is to lay eggs. She is followed by worker bees tasked with responsibility of collecting food, feeding larvae, and protecting the hive. Last are the drones. They are male bees whose primary responsibility is to mate with the queen.
You could keep bee colonies for the rest of your life and never observe a breakdown of the social order. It is programmed into honeybees by nature. And because this social order is unchanging, a healthy hive operates like a well-oiled machine.
Their Life cycle
Beekeeping gives you the opportunity to observe the life cycle of bees in real time. A queen will establish a new colony with a collection of workers and drones. She immediately starts laying eggs that the workers must then take care of. Eggs become larvae and then, through metamorphosis, adult bees. Those adult bees are either workers or drones who pick up the mantle from their dying elders.
In extremely warm climates, a bee’s life can be as short as six weeks. In cooler climates, bees have been known to live for 8 to 10 months. But even at that length of time, the beekeeper is observing a complete colony turnover at least once per year. Most beekeepers see multiple colony turnovers in a 12-month cycle.
Their Defense Mechanisms
Did you know that only female bees have stingers? It’s true. If you’re ever stung by a honeybee, you can count on the fact that the guilty party was a female worker. Stinging is part of a bee colony’s defense mechanism.
Beekeepers quickly come to realize that an army of worker bees is constantly guarding the entrance to the nest. Their job is to stay on the lookout for intruders. If the nest is threatened, the workers secrete a chemical that acts as a warning to other bees in the area. More workers will gather to protect the entrance of the nest and, if need be, attack.
If you have ever walked through the general vicinity of a beehive and noticed bees bumping you in the face, you’ve participated in one of their chief defensive activities. Honeybees will avoid stinging at all costs because the practice leads to the death of the bee more often than not. So when a nest is threatened, some of the bees will go out and harass the threatening creature in hopes it will go away.
Those bees bumping you in the face are telling you to leave. They don’t want to engage you in a fight, but they will if they have to. Harassing you is their way of giving you an opportunity to walk away without confrontation.
There are certainly other things you can learn about bees by taking up the beekeeping hobby. Suffice to say that bees are some of the most fascinating creatures on earth.
2. There’s Plenty of Free Honey
Another reason beekeeping is awesome is found in the hives themselves. As a beekeeper, one of the things you’ll be doing is harvesting honey. And guess what? It’s all free. The bees will not charge you a penny for it. All you have to do is go out and occasionally clean the nests. While you’re doing that, you are removing spent honeycomb and harvesting the honey from it.
You’re not limited to honey in terms of what you can harvest from your bees, either. You can harvest wax, pollen, and other beekeeping by-products. You can even hire out your bees as pollinators of local farms. You make a little extra money and help the local agricultural scene at the same time.
3. It is Pretty Affordable
There are a lot of hobbies you could embrace during a lifetime. Some of those hobbies can be quite expensive. The good news about beekeeping is that it is relatively affordable. You can set up a complete operation with two existing hives for under USD $1,200. Choose bee kits instead of established hives and you’ll get away even cheaper.
Once you have made the initial investment, your expenses are pretty minimal. You will have to buy a few tools here and there and possibly replace your queen every couple of seasons. But other than that, beekeeping doesn’t really cost anything.
Compare that to golf, which can cost a fortune in North America, Asia, and Europe. You can spend as much on one season of golf as you would multiple seasons of beekeeping. And golf doesn’t return any kind of product you can sell to friends, family members, and folks in the neighborhood.
4. It is a Way to Help the Planet
If we I convinced you of the awesomeness of beekeeping yet, consider this one last point: beekeeping is a way for you to help the planet. Remember that honeybees are an integral part of nature. We depend on them for pollinating everything from flowers to trees and the crops we grow for food. The planet would be in terrible shape if there were no bees.
Unfortunately, bee colonies have suffered catastrophic collapse around the world over the last 5 to 10 years. We still don’t know what causes colony collapse, but we do know that we have to do everything we can to restore bee populations. That’s where you come in. By taking up the beekeeping hobby, you will be helping us get bee populations back to where they need to be. That will help the planet on its way to restoring a natural balance.
What to Do Next
If you think you would like to take up beekeeping, my website offers a lot of great information to help you get started. Be sure to look at my guides explaining what beekeeping entails, the supplies and equipment you’ll need, and how to procure bees to start your first hives.
If you need information you cannot find here, there are plenty of other online resources you can investigate. I also encourage you to check your local area and see if there is some sort of group or commercial organization that specializes in beekeeping. The information is out there. You just might have to do a little digging.
Also bear in mind that beekeeping is a hobby rooted in nature. It is not like sports or technology. I say this because you may do everything right and still discover that your first hive collapses. Don’t stress over it. Things happen, and you may have to establish two or three hives before you finally get one that thrives.
Should you take up beekeeping? Absolutely. It is an awesome hobby that offers you the opportunity to learn, help the planet, and enjoy yourself all at the same time. What’s not to love?