What’s so wonderful about beekeeping? Is having a bee hive really that great? If it’s such a hot job, why aren’t more people involved in beekeeping?
I’ll answer all those questions and more, but first let me say that there are a multitude of different type bees, ranging from fat, fuzzy bumblebees to small, “busy as a bee” honey bees. When most people think of beekeeping, though, they usually think of owning honey bees.
Because there are quite a few fallacies about beekeeping, and believing in those erroneous ideas usually gets people stung, let’s address the misconceptions first and then we’ll talk afterward about reasons for keeping a bee hive.
Beekeeping Misconception 1: Beekeepers Own Honey Bees
Honey bees are not domesticated animals. Bees are equipped with stingers, which in my book equates to having harpoons in their butts! If they decide something is a threat-whether man or beast-they have no problems jabbing with that harpoon! So … it’s probably safe to say that no one actually owns honey bees, they simply tend them.
Beekeeping Misconception 2: Don’t Bother the Honey Bees and They Won’t Bother You
This idea is only partially true. Honey bees aren’t normally super aggressive … unless they perceive a threat. So, if on a warm, sunny day a bystander watches a hive of honey bees from a short distance, the bees will probably not go after him. However, if that bystander waves his hands, jumps about, and dashes back and forth toward the bee hive, not only will the honey bees attack, but they’ll attack in force. When a honey bee stings, she gives off a pheromone that alerts the other bees to danger, and they all come a’running. Well, a’flying might actually be more accurate.
Beekeeping Misconception 3: Beekeepers Can Work a Bee Hive Any Time of Day
Yes, it’s possible to work a bee hive any time of day, but as anyone in beekeeping will admit, it’s a crazy beekeeper who’ll work a hive on a cloudy, dreary day. Honey bees, like most humans, prefer warm, sunny weather. When it’s nice outside, the honey bees are happy and … well … busy as bees! And when they’re busy, they’re less inclined to pay attention to the beekeeper, especially if she/he moves slowly and smokes the hive well.
Beekeeping Misconception 4: Smoke the Hive Well and the Honey Bees Won’t Attack
One of the best beekeeping tools is the smoker. The beekeeper puffs smoke from it onto the bees, which slows the insects’ movement. But, that doesn’t guarantee an absence of stings, either. Squash a couple of bees by accident and it’s possible to still get stung. Even when the bee hive has been smoked, other honey bees out gathering pollen are still returning and they are in top form. And that’s one of the many reasons why beekeepers wear protective clothing-hat, veil (net) and long-sleeved shirt and pants.
At this point, I’m certain that a number of readers are wondering why anyone in their right mind would keep honey bees. Beekeeping isn’t for everyone, it’s true, but there are a few reasons why some people love it.
Reasons for Keeping a Bee Hive 1: A Bee Hive Produces Honey
Why do people grow vegetable gardens? Or raise chickens? Or grow anything else when food is so readily available in stores in the United States? Because there’s enjoyment in “doing it yourself.” It’s the same way with beekeeping. There’s a great emotional reward in keeping honey bees, and in autumn extracting the honey from the hive. Not to mention that great taste of honey on hot biscuits.
Reasons for Keeping a Bee Hive 2: Bees Live in the Great Outdoors
There are beekeepers who keep bees for a living. It’s not a job that generally puts the beekeeper in the Fortune 500 group, but there’s great satisfaction in being outdoors, listening to the honey bees hum, watching them waggle and give directions to the flowers, and being a part of it all.
Reasons for Keeping a Bee Hive 3. Bees Pollinate Flowers
Since they’re very efficient pollinators, honey bees are an important part of the food chain. Many farmers and fruit growers keep bees in order to increase pollination for their crops. One of the concerns in the agricultural community is that pollinator bee hives will be wiped out by increased exposure to pesticides and disease, and then farming yields will decrease.
As I said earlier, beekeeping may not be for everyone. However, for those who enjoy working with nature, have the patience to move slowly around a bee hive, who don’t have an emotional breakdown every time they get stung (and by the way, there’s some scientific thought that bee stings actually help alleviate arthritis pain), and who love honey … well, Honey, beekeeping is the job for you!
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Personal experience, plus 4 years of college, a degree in entomology, and a love of bees.