Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why Become A Beekeeper?

After two years of great anticipation, my first bees are scheduled to arrive April 19th! Naturally, I'm excited, but nervous as well. Beekeeping has changed over the years and what was once a fairly simple hobby has become quite a challenge in order to stay ahead of bee deaths from Varroa mites to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). But make no mistake about it, this adventure has already been amazing and I can't wait to learn more!


Photo Credit: harold.lloyd


As a child, I was terrified of bees, so the very thought of me becoming a novice beekeeper is quite hysterical. But I'm not one to be deterred if I want something bad enough and beekeeping has been on my mind for some time. Two years ago, I jumped in the car with a few friends I had gathered up and headed to a bee club in Southern California to learn the basics. Because we were able to get into the hives and look around I conquered the first step in becoming a beekeeper: overcoming my initial fear. And now that I've been reading and learning about bees, I'm totally captivated.


Photo Credit: retro traveler


Words can't begin to describe how I've been able to see the hand of God as a magnificent Creator by learning in-depth about bees. From the individual worker to the colony as a whole, God is in the details. And it would take me pages upon pages to describe it all, so instead of drowning you with a fire hose of information, I think I'll let it trickle out a little at a time over the next few months as I set up my bees in their new home.


Photo Credit: Printemps ete


Reasons To Become A Beekeeper


Honey: Without a doubt this is the sweetest reason for beekeeping! Honey is a wonderful by product of bees that is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible as a blessing:


"and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey." ~ Deuteronomy 26:8-9


Many claim that eating local honey helps curb allergies to local plant triggers, and this is one of just a few sweeteners that has actual nutrient value. It doesn't cause blood sugar levels to spike as dramatically as refined sugar, and it can be used in your home for everything from baking to canning.

Pollination of garden plants: Between 80 - 90% of our plants require some kind of animal pollination with bees accounting for no less than 15-30% of that service. Without bees, over 100 crops would not be pollinated and as a result, we wouldn't have a large portion of the foods we currently enjoy. And now, with the current trend of vast monocrops, bees have made themselves indispensable (more on monocrops and my opinion in another post!) Your own vegetable and flower gardens will benefit from having a nearby hive of honey bees feasting on the nectar and pollinating your plants.

Repopulate bees: Like I mentioned earlier, beekeeping use to be rather simple. And to a degree, it still is. But in the last few years, beekeepers have had to battle diseases that were virtually non-existant just 30 years ago. Between Varroa mites and Colony Collapse Disorder alone, beekeepers in the last few years have lost as much as 50% of domesticated bees. By having your own backyard hives, you are giving bees a chance to live in a natural habitat as opposed to being trucked across the nation to pollinate monocrops, as well as living in smaller groups (as opposed to hundreds of hives in one orchard). It's kind of like not exposing your kids to colds and the flu by keeping them away from large crowds. Yes, they can fly around and still get it, but it just makes sense to have them in areas with smaller numbers. 


Fascination: This isn't just a "project". It's more like a hobby. Something fun that you really can get into. Bees are both simple and yet complicated. And because of their "society" mentality, they are unique from almost every other insect. By watching bees and keeping a hive you'll have hours of good clean entertainment!


If you keep bees or if you're planning to do so, please share why you decided or plan to become a beekeeper.








This post has been linked to Farm Friend Friday





48 comments:

  1. So totally excited about this post! My husband and I have been talking about this off and on for a while now! YaY!

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  2. We just became beekeepers ourselves and look forward to reaping the benefits by next month...as in honey! They are busy pollinating our farm and gardens in the meantime. I wonder how much our mismanagement of God's creation has to do with the demise of so many bees. We have not had that problem here on our caribbean island but, we don't use many chemicals here, either, or try to get rid of insects we don't care for. Every creature has it's own purpose. May God bless your beekeeping endevours and when it comes along, enjoy their gift of honey!

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  3. Sounds fascinating! I'd love to keep bees but unfortunately I have too many other projects on the go at the moment - one day hopefully. Luckily some of our neighbours keep bees so we are supplied with copious amounts of delicious honey whenever we want. Good luck with your new project x x

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  4. How exciting! Good luck with your new project. I'll be waiting to see how it turns out.. I'm sure it will be a 'sweet' post.. :)

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  5. Best of luck to you. Bee keeping and raising chickens are two dreams of mine. However, I live in the suburbs and hoa rules prevent. I live vicariously through you.

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  6. This is just great Amy. I have a love for bee's as well. I really can't explain it, but you've done a great job for me. It's more of an awe for God and what HE has created. My husband and I had talked about getting some too and chickend out. I'm so happy that you are embarking in this wondeful adventure. I can't wait to follow you along your journey!

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  7. Bees are on our horizon. They just make sense. There is a huge bee communit here, and great support for questions. I've already attended a lunch-and-learn at our loca library, and the university here locally. Our homeschool 4-H group presented our club with an opportunity for an essay about bees for a huge prize. Now just to get that homestead set-up!

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  8. I wish you great success in your new venture. I would love to do beekeeping but I am deathly allergic to bees. My husband will not even consider it because he does not want them in our yard which is ironic because apparently someone close to our home is a beekeeper becaus every summer we have hundreds of honey bees in our herb garden that is connected to our back patio. on the upside, I am able to purchase my honey for a very resaonable price from out veterniarian who is a local beekeeper.

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  9. We keep bees and love it. This will be our fourth year, if memory is correct. We first got into it to pollinate our garden, and was there EVER a difference too!

    We have had a terrible time with colony collapse disorder and haven't had a hive make it over the winter yet. That said, this hive we have right now (which is actually a swarm my husband caught last spring) is alive and doing very well. We're in South Carolina so hopefully no more super-cold spells will impact that hive.

    I am very surprised how addictive beekeeping has become, but we love it!

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  10. Good luck with this Doris. Not for me this cup of tea. The neighbors have a hive in their roof or something, you should see the bees they come in swarms, it is scary...and I am afraid of bees. I'm sure you will have all the proper equipment and such..but think of your rewards for work well done...sweet pure honey..awesome.

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  11. Do you have a website or book that you particularly recommend for starting with bees?

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  12. oopsy...I sent my comment to Doris, sorry about that. duh!

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  13. We're eager to receive our first shipment of bees in April too. For Christmas, my husband received all of the equipment and our boxes are ready for their new residents. We want to keep bees for all of the same reasons you do. It's also another step in our journey to be as self-sufficient as possible. It's very expensive to buy organic honey in our area. We're very fortunate to have a Bee Keepers Guild in our local area so we can learn from experienced bee keepers.

    I'm eager to read about how your bees work out.

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  14. My grandparents had about a dozen hives on their 175 acre farm when I was a kid. I always thought it was interesting that you could walk in that area and not get stung. If you start waving your arms you would be in trouble because they would defend their hives. Normally they weren't interested in attacking you because they were too busy doing their job.

    Last year my neighbor (in the city) two doors down put in a couple of hives. It was so interesting to watch the behavior of the bees! I have a picture of 22 of them them lined up side by side at the bird bath by my swing, drinking up the water for their hives. I would sit there and watch them suck up the water, then fly over two fences and down to their hives, then come back and get more. You can track them very easily as they fly towards the direction the sun is shining in the morning because of the location of the hives. It's very neat!

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  15. hi - i'm so glad you're doing this! i really look forward to following your progress! i'm in the same general area (joshua tree) and if you have any info about how i could get started, i'd love to know! we have been thinking about it but don't know where to turn. does it take a whole lot of prep? good luck! exciting.

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  16. SO excited for you! And...a little envious too! I can't wait to hear how it all plays out... I began looking into beekeeping several years ago...and read a GREAT book that I cannot recall the title of right now! I just couldn't believe how beneficial honey was...not to mention the wax and the propolis, too. All of it...useful and good. Yes....SO GOD. Amazing... And then the bees themselves? Incredible...

    Good for you for going for it...xoxo

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  17. Glad to hear someone else is going to be doing beekeeping! We have been beekeeping for over 15 years. It started when my hubby and I were dating, and we saw a swarm up in the tree. The man behind us used to keep bees so we got a box from him, and the rest is history! It is a lot of work in the beginning, making sure the boxes are ready, etc., but the rewards are well worth it. Some years we have a lot of honey other years not so much. It also depends on how the weather has been. Last year we lost 3 hives which we replaced. This winter we have also lost one so we are back down to 4 hives. My hubby and I work the bees together, and oh do I have some stories! It is fun and I like knowing that I am helping especially since we have a vinyard down the road. One year 2 frames of honey actually tasted like blueberries!
    So, enough for now, have to get busy with house work, but I'll definitely come back for a visit! Enjoy your bees!
    Ulrike

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  18. I recently went to a bee keeping class for our youngest son to experience first hand what he was studying in homeschool science. It was amazing. I would love to do that but my husband is deathly allergic to stings so we can't take that chance. I will live vicariously through you. So exciting!

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  19. I love this idea of beekeeping. I have a friend who did this for years before moving to a different state.

    It always fascinated me too. If ever I live in a home (instead of an apt), I plan on being a beekeeper.

    I like your 4 reasons. I would add it is a great way to connect with nature.

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  20. You are going to love your bees. I've had my ladies for over a year and they were the best addition to my farm.

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  21. Amy, please give us updated on how this process works out for you. We'd like to keep bees also.

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  22. I love this post! I found you by way of Amanda at Homegrown and Beeyoutiful, and am so glad i did!
    I have wanted bees since reading up on the glories of it several years ago. Only in the past year, since buying a home, has beepkeeping really taken hold of me! Thank you for sharing!

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  23. Hopeful, You're only about an hour and 45 minutes from Upland where I took my beekeeping class (I think I had to drive 2.5 hours to get there), but if you look on line at http://bascbees.org/ you'll find the info you need to get you started. Also, check out Brushy Mountain Bee Farm for DVDs, books, and supplies. I've found beekeepers love to share their info!

    Brenda I plan to have lots more posts on the subject and will tell you even more about how to get started. I hope you'll come back and keep reading!

    Michelle, I think you read "Honeybee: Lessons From an Accidental Beekeeper" by C. Marina Marchese - at least I remember you getting it from the library and posting it on your blog. Was it good? I've thought about getting a used copy.

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  24. Very exciting! I have always wanted to keep bees...maybe when I have a bigger yard...I'll be looking forward to hearing all about your bee adventures!

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  25. That sounds really neat... and I'll bet the honey they produce will be AWESOME..hey, if they make enough, you could even sell it maybe to friends and neighbors? Or not...because it'll be too good to giveaway :) :) Thanks for the buzz about your future residents :) :) It'll be fun to read about your adventures in beekeeping :) :) Love and hugs from ORegon, Heather :)

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  26. How neat!! My younger brother wants to keep bees, and I am not really in favor of the idea because I don't want to get stung. But I'm sure it's probably more honey and less beestings than I'm imagining..

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  27. We just joined a bee club and are SO excited to start our new adventure this spring!
    I'll be linking to you so I can follow along on your journey as well :)

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  28. Such a great post and good timing as the beekeeper man is coming to my house next week to survey my site as to where to put the hive! In New Zealand they offer a service where the hive will be maintained by a beekeeper on your property and you can learn what to do when he comes to harvest the honey and maintain the hive. This is our plan, to get the hive, watch and learn for a year and then buy the hive next year. Baby steps is the way to go for this mother of 3 and I am jumping into so many new things (making own concoctions like yourself, preserving, baking bread) that I have to do things in steps but am thrilled that I have the choice of doing so! Thanks for a great post!!

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  29. I have written to you before about beekeeping and mentioned we are from NY and we have bees if you ever want to talk to my husband about things.. congrats

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  30. I really enjoyed readin this post. I would like to become a bee keeper, my husband and I have talked about this past year, I think it would be cool, plus I want the yummy honey :)

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  31. I have been a beekeeper on and off for about 8 years and I am so happy to see someone else who is getting into the hobby. You will fall in love.

    If you want to see my adventures in beekeeping - check out my blog. www.sacredbee.net

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  32. Thank you Nf1andprek-whisperer and Kate! I'll be needing some advice and help, I'm sure!

    sweetnektar, I think your plans for learning under a beekeeper is a fabulous idea - and on your own property! How great is that?!! I'm thinking someone needs to be doing that here in the states!

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  33. My husband and I would love to do this....we are planting apple trees this year, and would also love the benefit of honey. Unfortunately there is no one local to teach us. We got all excited about this, until I read about swarming and kind of panicked. Certainly not something you go into blindly. You are forunate to have had a "bee club" close by. I wish you the best of luck, and maybe.....I'll be doing it too someday.

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  34. We got into beekeeping just because we had a spot to put bees and felt that if we did, we should share it with some bees that needed all the help they could get. Little did we know how much we'd enjoy watching them and learning how to take care of them and, of course, the honey :-). Now I can't imagine not having a hive of bees. Anywhere.

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  35. I'm very excited too. This has been in the planning for me for over a year and a half and it's hard to believe the time is almost here!

    I was just talking to someone at the farmer's market today who was telling me there is a pesticide that has been banned in Europe and there has been a significant decline in those area of CCD. Have you heard of this?

    Happy Beekeeping!! : )

    ~Andrea~

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  36. Andrea,
    Somewhat true. They banned GMO crops but they still had CCD. Also, I believe some European countries banned imidacloprids which is a type of neonicotinoid, a class of neuro-active insecticides modeled after nicotine, but I understood that CCD is still an issue there. I'm reading a book right now (post to follow next week) that discusses CCD in depth. FASCINATING! Spoiler warning: It appears CCD is more likely a result of a suppressed immune system and unnatural beekeeping practices that have led to malnutrition of bees feeding on monocrops. Like I said, I've been reading a lot and will post more later.

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  37. I just became a beekeeper last year. We are interested in both honey and pollination for our farm. I remember how terrified I was picking up my first package--I had my husband build a ventilated box to put the bee box inside. Ha! Six months later I was able to fearlessly pluck a swarm of 10,000 bees out of a thorny shrub and drive home with them in a makeshift box in the back of my car.

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  38. flowerweaver,
    Wow! That's impressive! I hope I get that brave.

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  39. How exciting, I've been reading about it off and on for a few years now. I look forward to reading more as you venture into it.

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  40. Hi Amy, we are hoping to start our first hive this spring but only if we feel we are ready. We have a lot of learning to do but we want honey and pollination and also just the learning experience of raising bees. I am so glad you joined FF Friday-thank you :) Great post. As for Flowerweaver-WOW--that is amazing :)
    Amy at Verde Farm

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  41. After being a x beekeeper now for a bit. I am very interested in this book. I like your disclaimer and will read it with my world view in tact. My bees flew off taking all of the brood, the honey we left them for the winter and the hive was as empty and clean as when we first got our bees. There was only one dead bee. We had robbed the top hive 4 weeks before and the brood box was healthy as was the queen. So I have pondered and pondered what happened so I will check out the book.
    I also added your button to my blog, as I love everything you do and write about.
    Thanks
    Kim

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  42. Oh you are so brave! I am terrified of bees. However, I am a runner not a swatter! I understand the importance of bees but I am really afraid. Thank you for you desire to repopulate!

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  43. I have been researching bees for a couple of years now. We are in town so I am hesitant to make my neighbors tolerate bees. (They already tolerate my chickens!) I am afraid of what is happening to those sweet garden buddies. Thanks for the post.

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  44. I can't wait to hear about your adventures in beekeeping! I want bees so badly but DH needs convincing.

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  45. I am going to try beekeeping because of the bees. I live in an old brick house that was built in 1882. For some reason the bees have claimed my house. This is the third "nest" of bees I have had in my house over the last 22 years I have lived here. The first two times the created a hive in the floor joists of the same room. Now they have taken up residence in my utility room. The first two times I attempted to kill them with spray. This time I have become more knowledgeable to the rarity of hives. I am hoping to be able to move them out of my utility room and into a hive. Do you have any suggestions or feedback you can give me on how to accomplish this? I live in central Ohio so it is becoming cold here. Is this a good time to move them? I need all the feedback I can get.
    Thanks.
    Myra

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  46. Myra, make sure they are actually bees and not wasps. If they are bees, contact the Ohio Beekeepers Association or visit their site at http://www.ohiostatebeekeepers.org/ in order to get the help you need. Hope they ARE bees and that you can get them tucked into a hive and raise them!

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  47. You are going to love having "The Ladies" in your life. I have had a hive for 3 years now and continue to learn about my girls. We had one 6 year old girl who lived across the street from us, who was deathly afraid of the idea of a bee hive in the neighborhood. One morning I invited her and her mother over. We sat on the patio and watched the bees come and go while we had fresh biscuits and honey. I told her that all the bees that she sees flying around and in the gardens are Girls. And what do girls do best?--They SHOP! and that is exactly what the bees are doing. They find the best gardens with the best pollen and they tell all their friends. They all go 'shopping', take the pollen home and make honey. She fell in love with 'the girls' and now loves watching them 'shop' in her garden and wants to make sure that her mom plants the right kind of flowers for them. My neighbors love having them, especially when we share the 'golden harvest'. I will go out and just listen to them hum & buzz... You can get a feeling for the mood of the hive after awhile. ENJOY!!!

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  48. Luv this post! I am fascinated by bees! This is our 3rd year as beekeepers and I love learning more each year. We now have 11 hives at our place. Enjoy your new adventure, it's truly amazing!

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