Monday, 27 September 2010

Why Not Become a Beekeeper?

As someone who may love gardening you know the importance of honey bee pollination, be you a flower, vegetable and/or fruit gardener. No doubt you have noticed that you do not have as many honey bees tripping about in your own garden as in years past.

You most likely have heard of CCD [ Colony Collapse Disorder ] decimating our bee population here in the US. Incidentally, as of this writing, researchers still have not pinned down a cause for CCD. Many think it is really a result of general distress caused by multiple factors such as , disease, pesticides, mites that have emigrated here from Asia, etc. The result is that we need more people to keep their own bees.

What can you do about it ?

Why not start your own bee hive or two ? It makes sense does it not ? Almost anyone can become a beekeeper. And, it does not matter if you live in a rural setting, in the midst of a suburban area, or in a high rise in the middle of New York City. Bees can be kept anywhere that plant life thrives.

The honey bees will not care if you are a man, woman or child. It is immaterial if you are nine years old or seventy five years old. You can even have a severe physical handicap as long as you have some form of mobility and a friend to help lift a heavy box for you. If you are clever and inventive maybe you can even figure a way around that limitation.

The beekeeping season begins with the onset of spring and the flowering of trees and then plants of all kinds.

Okay you say, "How do I start" ?

First, learn all you can about honey bees, beekeeping and beekeepers. Visit your local library and check out what they have on hand on beekeeping. The Internet is a gold mine of information for beekeeping for beginners to advanced beekeepers. A popular beekeeping magazine especially written for the hobbyist beekeeper is Bee Culture. You can find Bee Culture on-line by doing a search. Some of their articles are available in their entirety on-line and others are only available by subscribing to the magazine. You can also subscribe on-line to the editors free 'Catch The Buzz' newsletter. Search for 'beekeeping for beginners' information by using Google or your own favorite search engine.

Go on-line to locate some of the many good beekeeping books available as well as beekeeping for beginners videos on tape and on dvds.

Poke around the area where you live and see if you can find any local beekeepers as they love to help people get into beekeeping. They may well be able to tell you about the existence of a local area bee club or association. Many of these associations conduct a winter 'Bee School' for folks interested in honey bees and/or becoming a beekeeper. If you spot a bee hive in someone's yard while driving around, do stop and introduce yourself as this is a great way to meet a local beekeeper.

Once you have your own beehive(s) you have a personal unique source of honey. Your own bottled honey makes a great gift very much appreciated by the recipient. You can also sell your excess honey by the roadside or wherever. That makes a nice way to help pay for your beekeeping equipment.

As you learn more about beekeeping, remember the honey bees know what they are doing. As a beekeeper you are trying to manage them for your own benefit, for their honey and their pollination services. Although Bumble Bees are far superior pollinators they are too few in numbers to meet our needs, which is the pollination of one third of what we eat, vegetables, fruits and nuts such as almonds.

You will also learn that if you are in a room with six or seven beekeepers and ask a question, you will get about six or seven different answers. Beekeepers are an independent and resourceful lot, each with their own way of doing things. This means that you have to rely on your own learned knowledge of honey bees, the experience that you accumulate and most of all, your common sense ! So, take the answers you hear from the other beekeepers in the room and mix that up with your own knowledge and experience and come up with the answer that you feel makes sense to you.

Once you have your own beehives, the best way to learn more about honey bees is to stand to the side of the entrance to one of your own hives and just 'observe' what is going on. The more often you do this the more you will learn about honey bees and beekeeping. You will soon get a 'feel' for the natural flow of daily life for your bees. If life is not right with the hive because they have some sort of problem, you will soon know by just observing the hives activity.


What can go wrong ? One of the most serious events would be if the Queen dies or disappears for some reason. More then likely as she ages her egg producing ability will reduce significantly and the bees themselves will address that problem with a process called 'supersedure'. The bees will raise a new Queen to replace the original one.

You might be wondering how would a Queen Bee disappear ? Very easily if you are not careful when you pull a frame out of hive for inspection. You could by error be holding it away from the hive over the nearby grass. She could fall off the frame without you noticing and you may even step on her without realizing it.
These are all matters that you will learn to cope with as you accumulate experience with your own bees.
Send away for some beekeeping equipment supplier catalogs to drool over all the beekeeping equipment and beekeeping supplies you 'think' you will need. You really do not absolutely need everything these companies will try to sell you. But this is a subject for another day or article.

At this point you only need to know that you can become a beekeeper and have bee hives in your yard, on the roof of a big city building or even on the porch of a city multifamily house. The issue is not where to put a beehive but getting started to learn about honey bees and beekeeping.

Aside from the traditional bee hive method of beekeeping, there is another simple and inexpensive method of keeping bees known as 'Top Bar Hive Beekeeping' prevalent in parts of Africa where the level of poverty makes it impossible to be able to afford to buy the equipment that we have in most advanced countries. Top Bar Hives can be made out of material that is lying around or that one can possibly find. It is a 'creative' form of beekeeping that you can learn more about on this authors website

Albert W. Needham An educational web site about honey bees and beekeeping [ Featured on Good Morning America October 2007 ] How to become a beekeeper in the countryside or the big city

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