Is beekeeping for you? Have you always been just a little fascinated by bees and their life cycles? Do you have thoughts about taking a bee hobby to the next step by starting your own apiary business? If any of these thoughts cross your mind then you might find this beekeeping for beginners guide useful for a new hobby or beekeeping business.
Enthusiasm, a little bit of cash, the right location and helpful mentors can lead you down a successful path to raising healthy bee colonies. Even before you get serious about raising bees it’s not a bad idea to check into joining a beekeeping club and take time to visit with an experienced beekeeper in your local vicinity. You can read guides, books and study on the Internet, but talking and working with a real beekeeper is worth its weight in gold.
You should start out by contacting the State Department of Agriculture to investigate beekeeping regulations for your state. There can be restrictions to keeping colonies in some areas such as residential neighborhoods and they may require a colony to be registered.
Some states may charge a processing fee and inspection of the location for an apiary business to be approved. Check with a homeowners association if you’re restricted by covenants. Check into insurance coverage.
Selecting an Apiary Site
Much of the key to raising bees is selecting an ideal site for hives. Consider food, water, shelter, weather and predators. Bees will forage for food and water about 1 to 1.5 miles away from the hive. When scouting for a location look for areas that can supply water, pollen and nectar from clover, fruit trees, berry bushes and dandelions.
Preferably the entrance to the hive should face the sun in the morning and have wind and shade protection if needed. Consider predators of cattle, bears, raccoons and the like.
Beekeeping equipment can be purchased from beekeeping clubs, local beekeepers or many online websites to get you started. Some items to be considered for purchase include hives, bee brushes, smoker feeders, nets, arm and pant coverings along with protective headgear. Harvesting equipment may include drip pans, extractors, bee pumps and storage containers.
The business of caring for and maintaining hives requires quite a bit of enclosed space for working with and extracting honey. You need a sheltered area for equipment repair, antibiotic treatments, storage and mixing bee feed. A tool shed, garage or larger facility could be options, also known as the “honey house”.
Vehicles will be needed for moving hives and hauling equipment. Flat bed trucks and forklifts are useful and some beekeepers rely on pickup trucks or station wagons.
Options include purchasing a “nuc”, functioning colonies or a package. A nucleus comes with food, brood, some workers and a queen. Functioning colonies are purchased from other beekeepers and include fully functioning colonies with everything included. A package contains a queen and the bulk of bees ready for installing into empty hives. Bees can be purchased locally, online or from beekeeping clubs.
Check into state run training facilities if available and online courses. Join beekeeping clubs, associations and cooperatives to learn about handling techniques.
Collect and sell wax, honey and royal jelly, as well as selling bees. This beekeeping for beginners guide should give you some thoughts and ideas to get started.