Why would our business, which primarily survives by selling raw honey to customers, encourage people to take up backyard beekeeping and produce their own raw honey?
When we began this journey years ago, our hope was to connect our customers with family-owned US apiaries faithfully producing high quality, pure raw honey.
We’ve done that, and continue to do that daily, but in the process we discovered something along the way.
This whole art and science of keeping bees is a fascinating endeavor that our family enjoys doing together. I believe you will too!
Beekeeping is not just for the professional 200-hive apiaries. It’s not even just for the family-owned organic farm on the outskirts of town. Keeping bees is for everyone, you included!
As long as you have a corner in your backyard or a space on your building roof – and your city code/HOA allows it – you can keep honey bees pretty much anywhere. Our home city in Texas allows up to two personal hives in a backyard if space requirements are met. Your city code probably allows backyard beekeeping too!
So, I want to give you five reasons why you should consider beekeeping in your own backyard this coming spring. It’s too late in the season now (September is NOT the best time to start a new hive) but come spring of 2023 you can be ready to get some nucs from a local apiary supplier and kick off your own adventure!
Reason 1 – Bees Really Aren’t That Scary
When I mention backyard beekeeping to friends and family, the first objection I usually get is fear.
“You mean you think it’s a good idea to open a box with 10,000 live bees in it? Are you nuts?”
I get that fear. As a kid, nothing caused more dread at an outside picnic then the ominous buzz of a bee finding the soda in your hand and deciding to make the sweet sugary liquid inside of it his lunch.
Who doesn’t remember running from bees at some point in their childhood?
But many of our fears are unfounded. The bees are just looking for a meal! If not provoked, they will leave you alone as well.
The same generally applies to working with hives. There’s no need to fear a honey bee if you don’t provoke them.
Sure, the first time you ever open a box filled with bees it is a bit intimidating. The hum from inside feels like you are handling a dangerous, unpredictable electric box. But honey bees are not that unpredictable.
You can reduce your fear by making sure you suit up, wear gloves if you aren’t ready to bare-hand it, and use enough smoke to calm your hive. After a few times, you’ll realize the bees are more surprised than angry at you (assuming you don’t fat-finger a frame and drop it on their box!).
After a while, they get used to you, and you get used to them.
Once you know them, you won’t fear them!
Still not convinced you can overcome your fear and take on backyard beekeeping? Check out this beekeeper on YouTube who handles a massive bee swarm with his bare hands, without fear. Bees need not be feared!
Reason 2 – Bees Will Let You Into Their Fascinating Little World
When you crack open the top of your hive and start inspecting your frames, you enter a different world. It’s a world run by honey bees. A largely vertical world, where their home of honey comb runs up and down inside the little box you gave them to live in. But a world all its own, that any new beekeeper can enter via backyard beekeeping.
This is probably the part that enchants my kids so much when we go into the hives. It’s a wonder to see thousands of bees diligently at work caring for brood, drawing out comb on a new frame, flying into the entrance laden with pollen, or closing up cappings on a frame heavy with honey.
You will enter into their little world every time you inspect a hive or harvest from it. Is it a brief escape from our own world? In some ways yes. It can be a helpful, calming distraction from the larger world around us.
Regardless of what’s happening in our world, the work of our honey bees goes on. Sometimes it’s good for us to take a break from our own world and enter another for a bit, in this case the world of bees.
As you enter this bee-world, would you believe me if I said you’ll even begin to learn the personality and mood of the hive? Yes, studies do show bees have collective “moods” you can pick up on.
Experienced beekeepers will attest to this. After a time, you’ll get to “know” the personality and quirks of your hives. Because there certainly is one unique to the hive and queen.
I have some hives that are chill as can be, and others that are a bit more edgy with me – but also seemingly more productive – and I have to interact with them accordingly!
There’s lots to learn from these bees, and my kids are endlessly fascinated watching all the activity in these hives. You will be too if you take that step and start keeping your own hives!
Reason 3 – Backyard Beekeeping is a Good Family/Friend Activity
There’s definitely something to be said for the peace and serenity of solo-beekeeping. Just you and the bees, surrounded by silence and the buzz of an active hive.
However, I find companion beekeeping more rewarding in the long run. Always keep an extra bee suit on hand. Bring along a friend or family member, or one of your kids.
I find it’s a great activity to do with my kids. They’re learning so much as little beekeepers!
Overcoming fears. What 10 year old isn’t petrified at first by the site of swarms of bees? Seeing them get over that is worth it. Now they’ve learned fear isn’t an insurmountable barrier, and they can apply this to other fears in life!
Learning new skills. It’s great to see my kids wanting to learn more. From helping light up the smoker, to handling frames while we inspect, to scraping propolis off the hive cover, to harvesting honey frames, and even learning to wire up new frames for wax base, there’s no end of skills they can learn to master.
Understanding how to care for a living being under their care. Teaching responsibility via backyard beekeeping can be a life long lesson. Consider your hive a box that essentially contains a wild animal in the form of 10,000 bees you are caring for! While more resilient than a gold fish, for sure, this box of honey bees still depends on you for care and maintenance to avoid colony collapse. Seeing kids understand that their actions matter to the well being of another living creature is a valuable lesson indeed.
Bonding by shared experience. The work of a new beekeeper requires teamwork, and creates shared experiences that you’ll find build a relationship with you and your beekeeper companion. My kids see it as a special time together when working with the bees.
There’s always some new adventure with your hives. Rarely do things go according to plan in backyard beekeeping! But the memories made and stories recounted will go with you and your companion beekeeper for a life time.
Reason 4 – More Bees For Your Backyard & Community is a Good Thing
Beehives are not just little honey factories. We need honey bees for much more than that!
Did you know about a third of all global food production requires pollination, and 80-90% of that comes from honey bees? (That factoid is from the Australian Academy of Sciences)
Do you have a garden in your backyard? Do your neighbors? Do you have trees or flowers lining your city street? Then it’s likely your honey bees will benefit them.
Pollination provides plant diversity, increases fruiting plant productivity and quality, and is all around a good thing. Who does the pollinating? The honey bee of course!
I’ve found that in our garden spaces frequented by our honey bees, fruiting plants just do better. The first year I planted a serious garden we didn’t have any bees. The next year we did, and there was a noticeable difference in yield.
Your honey bees are doing a vital service to your local ecology. We need more honey bees, and YOU can help bring them by properly caring for them in your neighborhood. Rather than your neighbors viewing backyard beekeeping as a potential nuisance, anyone with a garden is going to likely thank you.
Just make sure you place your bees right, and keep them watered so they don’t go invade the neighbors swimming pool or bird bath! In those situations, the community may not see a wayward honey bee in their property as such a good thing after all. But beehives done well will be a blessing to the entire community.
Reason 5 – You Will Get Ultra-Local Raw Honey in Abundance
I left honey as the last reason on this list on purpose. Honey alone isn’t a compelling enough reason to get into personal backyard beekeeping. Beehives do take time, work and commitment. At the end of the day, it’s cheaper and easier to just go buy a jar of raw honey online or from a local beekeeper rather than keeping bees yourself.
However, if you’re all-in on backyard beekeeping for more than just the honey, getting pure raw honey from your own hives is a nice bonus too!
One of the best things about backyard honey is that it is ultra-local. For people who find that local raw honey helps naturally lessen symptoms of seasonal allergies, you won’t get more local than keeping bees in your own backyard! (Caveat – According to the Mayo Clinic there’s no hard clinical evidence local honey helps with seasonal allergies BUT there are anecdotal reports of it helping some people; if it works for you, great! Always consult your doctor first though.)
You’ll also find that honey straight from your own hive has a unique flavor different from anything you’ll find in stores, or even from our own raw clover honey varietal. Your bees are making a unique blend of honey from the nectar available around them. It’s different every time and in every place, depending on what you have in your neighborhood.
We have some hives near a large source of sweet berries. That honey is the fruitiest, sweetest honey I’ve ever had! We have other hives near sunflowers, peppers and okra. That is quite a different flavor – richer, darker and robust – than the fruity hives. We don’t sell raw honey from these family hives we manage with the kids, and they probably appreciate that as it means more honey for them!
You’ll enjoy experimenting with honey varietals on your own, and find it to be some of the best honey you’ve ever had.
Eventually, you’ll even have more honey than you might know what to do with. Honey from your own hives makes a great gift for friends and family! You’ll find satisfaction in sharing the rewards of your – and especially your honey bees – labors at the hives.
Are You Ready To Start Beekeeping in Your Own Backyard?
Ready to jump in?
If you’re ready to start beekeeping in your own backyard, it can be daunting to think where to start.
As time permits in the future, we’ll post some of our own tips and experiences here to help.
But a tremendously helpful resource to begin with is the eponymous book on backyard beekeeping by Kim Flottum: “The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bee’s in Your Yard and Garden.”
If you want to consider getting hives this coming spring, start by reading Kim’s book first to understand WHAT you are getting into and HOW to do it well.
He walks beginners through every step, from getting the right gear, to ordering starter nucs, to placing our first hives, doing your first inspections, and completing your first harvests.
I’ve found it to be the clearest, most practical resource to recommend to aspiring backyard beekeepers, and I have my kids read it too! I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t something we already found useful ourselves.
I hope this post was helpful to any of you thinking of beekeeping. You CAN do it! Thousands of others have done it. I’ve done it, without prior experience, and enjoy it more each season. Anyone can keep bees, and so can YOU!
Let us know if you do decide to start some hives, and tell us about your experiences. Perhaps we could feature your story on our blog in the future too!
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