Beekeeping 101: 4 Prerequisites to becoming a beekeeper

Requirements for beekeeping 101:

While Newbee University loves beekeeping enough to try and convince everyone they should become a beekeeper, the reality is that there are certain prerequisites to be fulfilled before you take the first step to becoming a beekeeper.

You don’t have to want to pick up a honey bee and pet it in your hand in order to become a beekeeper (that will come with time).

If any of these prerequisites are not fulfilled, the odds of you sticking with beekeeping for more than two or three years is low. Therefore, we feel it is our job to encourage NewBees to join the wonderful world of beekeeping, while informing them of the work and effort that goes into keeping bees healthy and happy. We want you to be successful!

Purchasing a table saw doesn’t make you a woodworker and buying a hive doesn’t make you a beekeeper.

1.) Interest and curiosity in honey bees

This seems like an obvious requirement before you start beekeeping, but a few distinctions need to be made. Getting Started BeekeepingThis requirement does not state you must “love bees and be free from all apprehension about bees or being stung by them.” This is because, if we beekeepers were to be honest, many of us were very nervous and apprehensive about honey bees when we first started. I grew up with regular stings from yellow jackets. It was practically a summer ritual. I flashed back to those yellow jacket stings when I picked up my first hive. It took me time before this apprehension went away. After a few years beekeeping I laugh at how far I have come, from an ingrained fear of “bees” to having my head in a hive as they buzz all around.

You don’t have to want to pick up a honey bee and pet it in your hand in order to become a beekeeper (that will come with time).

2.) Time Commitment

The amount of time a hive of bees takes varies based on your style of beekeeping, but negligence is not a beekeeping style. A rough estimate would be that you will spend about 30-45 minutes a week per hive. This time includes weekly inspections in the spring and summer. The time invested will be higher in the spring. Spring, as you will learn, is the time to prevent swarming as well as catch the swarms that take flight.

Honey harvest time will require increased time as well, depending on how much surplus honey your bees collect. This is usually low the first year as you will learn.

Fall will require less time than spring and summer as the nectar flow and threat of swarming decreases, however it is important to spend time in the fall preparing bees for the long winter ahead (for those in climates where winters stay below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period).

In winter (again for those with a long stretch of cold temperatures) bees stay in the hive and cluster for warmth and do not require much hands on time.

Additionally, learning the art of beekeeping is very important and an equal, if not greater, amount of time should be dedicated to learning, as will be explained in the next beekeeping 101 prerequisite.

Contrary to the recent misconception that anyone can toss a hive in the back yard and have honey at the ready, keeping bees requires your time and attention.

3.) Willingness to continue learning

Equally important to spending time working with your bees is time spent learning about them. Again, a woodworker isn’t skilled because he bought great tools. He becomes skilled because he has learned how to use them and how to work with wood. In the same way, beekeepers must continue to learn about honey bees themselves and about the best management practices to keep their bees happy and healthy.

We would recommend that you have read at least a single introductory book on beekeeping (such as First Lessons in Beekeeping or Beekeeping For Dummies ) or better yet, taken a beekeeping course in your area (local beekeeping associations can provide info on classes near you).

Even better than learning from books, is gaining knowledge from the veteran beekeepers in your area. Beekeeping is very dependent on local environment and seasons and local experience is invaluable. To continue learning about your bees and beekeeping, join a local beekeeping club. You should be able to find a club near you by searching online, or by searching your state’s beekeeping association website for a local club directory. The connections made at local clubs will not only teach you about beekeeping in your area, it will help you develop the network you need to be successful in the future.

4.) Financial Investment

While beekeeping is less expensive than many other hobbies and backyard farming options, it does require a commitment to invest a little money. To begin beekeeping you will need to purchase at minimum: Hive, Bees, Hive tool, Smoker, Bee suit & gloves. You can expect to pay around $500 for this start up equipment. There are other investments down the road as well such as extracting tools, treatments, and additional hive parts. Additionally, it is recommended that a beekeeper keep two hives. This is so that comparisons can be made and one hive can help supplement the needs of the other, if necessary. This means that you would be pushing $900 for start up (slightly less than double because you would not need to double your suit, smoker, and hive tool purchase).

There are ways to reduce your financial investment. Some are able to build their own hives or buy locally built hives at a savings. Be careful, hives have to have very specific dimensions, otherwise bees will build honey comb where you don’t want them to. As tempting as it may be, it is strongly advised to not use old used equipment. Old equipment can harbor disease that will kill your bees, which will cost you much more in the end.

Also, if looking to start beekeeping on a tight budget, you can research how to catch swarms. You run the risk of getting a late start, or not catching a swarm at all, but could save yourself $100+ by catching your first colony of honey bees. Again, local clubs can help provide information about when swarming is at its peak in your area, you may even be able to get on a list to be informed of swarms in your area. Local associations may also have extracting equipment they lend or rent out.

Conclusion:

While beekeeping is a fascinating hobby, which I dearly love, it is important to know if it’s right for you. It is important to have an understanding of the interest, time, learning and financial commitment it takes to become a successful beekeeper. If you are up for the adventure, please continue along with us here at NewBee University.

Not sure if beekeeping is for you? Read 12 Reasons to become a Beekeeper

Or if you think your ready, jump to Beekeeping Lesson 1: Buying Bees

 

For the LOVE of bees, share!