For thousands of years man has been managing bees for their production of honey. While honey production in large volume is performed by professional beekeepers, more and more people are discovering beekeeping as a fun and fascinating hobby. It doesn’t cost much to start beekeeping and it isn’t very labor intensive once your colony is up and running. And the rewards can be oh so sweet!
An average honey bee colony produces two to three times more honey than the colony needs. This generally means about 20 to 30 pounds of surplus honey a year, more than enough for a family. And any extra honey can be jarred and sold at organic markets, online, or even simply given as gifts to friends and neighbors.
The first step in learning how to start beekeeping is to build an artificial hive. For around $150 you can purchase all the equipment needed to construct a hive fit for a colony of up to 25,000 bees. Many retailers that specialize in beekeeping offer unassembled starter kits that include all the pieces of a standard hive with instructions on how to assemble the hive. Most kits will also include all of the necessary tools to work the hive, including the all-important smoker.
While most kits do include a pair of gloves as a part of the tools provided, you will have to purchase separately a pair of coveralls and a helmet with a veil. A coverall bee suit with helmet and veil will protect you from stings and keep clothes clean and dry when working with the hive.
Once your colony has produced its surplus honey, you’ll want to start harvesting the nectar. Be sure to have a couple of five gallon honey pails on hand to use during the extracting and filtering process. The honey pails should be made of plastic and have plastic lids for storing the honey prior to bottling it.
One of the most satisfying aspects of beekeeping is when you bottle your first yield of honey. There are two methods for bottling your honey. You can use glass jars or you can go with the plastic variety. The great thing about the glass jars is that they have that classic look of homemade delights from years gone by. You can dress the jars up with your own printed labels and for an extra touch, dress up the lids with a cute piece of country-printed cloth tied up with a ribbon. These are always a hit at country fairs and outdoor garden markets.
Another fun way to store and package your honey is with the plastic squeeze bear bottles. Kids absolutely love these cute, bear-shaped bottles with a friendly bear face. They come with an no-mess nozzle that makes it easy for children to dispense their own honey.
Starting bee keeping can be a wonderfully rewarding hobby. Your next year will be an exciting one as you start your new hive and nurture it through its first season to harvesting, extracting, and processing your honey.