One thing that a lot of organic farmers have really become akin to is keeping bees. They use them as the key pollinators for their gardens or farms. Many of them don’t even harvest anything from the bees. They only want to harvest the bee pollination power. But then many of them produce honey from bees and a huge added bonus. I will do a very basic post this time around and tell you why beekeeping may or may not be for you.
The big thing that I have already said is that bees are a great pollinator. They are responsible for $15 billion (United States Department of Agriculture) in added crop value, which makes it a shame that the pesticides used on large scale farms kill lots of honey bee hives.
Bees create the honey that people pay good money for. If you skip the grocery store and their new Zealand mix of local honey and make your way to the farmer’s market, you will find jars of honey for $15. Raw, unprocessed honey doesn’t go bad. It can harden, but it won’t go bad. It also has been known to rid people of allergies, when they eat raw, local honey.
We would also see multiple people selling honey at that same farmer’s market. Why? Because there is very little work involved with keeping bees. Bees are constantly working, making the honey that you will consume, use, or sell. Free labor (don’t tell the labor police). It only takes about 30 minutes to an hour each week to keep honeybees because they are very independent. Just don’t over or under collect and you will all be happy.
Beeswax is another largely commercialized product because so much can be done with it. My favorite way is making candles out of it. Chap stick (not the brand) many times can have beeswax in it, and you can make your own lip balm.
Just because there is little time involved and a high yield on a hive, doesn’t mean that it is super easy. It is simple, but can sometimes be tough.
Bees will sting you. If you are allergic, get someone else to keep them for you. Stings hurt, especially initially. Fortunately beekeepers usually develop immunity to the sting poison over time.
The initial cost of keeping bees can be a chunk of change to get started. I would say that you could get started around 350-400 bucks. It may seem like it is expensive, but you are investing in something much more substantial; you are investing in self-reliance, and nature.
Your first year will suck. You have to learn the ins, outs, ups and downs of beekeeping. You probably won’t get much honey the first year, and you will probably kill off your hive, or seriously hurt them. But they can surprise you and come back with vigor. You also can just get another hive to place in your boxes next year. Patience is key here, because after a couple years, you will kind of just “coexist” with your hive, getting all the honey and wax your heart desires, with a huge bonus of MUCH more vegetable and fruit production.
Learning about beekeeping from a local keeper can be advantageous, even if he is a commercial keeper, and you will be doing it the smaller, more humane way. So, you should tag along with one to see some of the requirements with keeping bees. Who knows, you may learn something.
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