You might have noticed that beekeeping has become a very popular activity in recent years and for good reason — it’s a whole lot of fun! People are joining the beekeeping club every day and that trend will only continue.
In this blog post, you’ll receive an overview of what you need to get started in beekeeping. If you’re thinking about getting into beekeeping, this information will be helpful to keep in mind as you get started.
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A Little Beekeeping History
To start off, we started beekeeping long before it became a popular activity. Before founding Bear Country Bees in 2012, we had already been beekeepers for almost 10 years.
We started beekeeping back when it was an activity only the agriculture folks participated in. When we got into it, we only personally knew 2 or 3 other beekeepers.
Fast forward to today, where beekeeping has exploded on almost every continent due to increased awareness of honey bee mortality rates as well as new innovations like the Flow Hive.
In addition, the all-natural foods (*including honey consumption) and DIY movements that have spread across the globe have further spurned interest in beekeeping.
Honey Lbs. in (MM)
Honey Lbs. out (MM)
Honey Lbs. Per Person
As a beekeeping company, we couldn’t be more thrilled! We love seeing the world become interested in what we love.
It’s also a great opportunity for us. As experienced beekeepers, we’ve helped hundreds of beekeepers get started and continue to provide training and support for beekeepers all across the United States.
In fact, we love beekeeping so much that we designed our entire Education Center experience around helping backyard beekeepers learn the ropes and ultimately be successful.
Is Beekeeping a Good Fit For Me?
Before you dive head first into beekeeping, you should ask yourself a few key questions:
If any of these questions make you squeamish, beekeeping may not be the best fit for you right now. However, if you can answer “Yes” to these questions, becoming a beekeeper will likely be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make!
Beekeeping Sounds Exciting But Where Do I Start?
Beekeeping is beautifully simplistic and surprisingly complex at the same time. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to start. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are the 3 main things you need to get started as a backyard beekeeper:
- The bees themselves
- The right beekeeping equipment
- A good, reputable beekeeping mentor
The first two are pretty self-explanatory, but the third may not be as intuitive.
Simply put, you’re going to have tons of questions and you’ll likely make a mistake or two. There’s only so much you can learn from online articles or YouTube videos.
Beekeeping is not just something you just pick up in an afternoon nor should you take it lightly, as outlined here. You should also not expect to get everything right on your first try. You need to know what you’re doing and have the right tools for the job.
This is where your mentor comes in.
At Bear Country Bees, providing high-quality mentoring is something we take very seriously. Since we founded our business in 2012, we’ve provided beekeeping mentoring to hundreds of backyard beekeepers. Here’s what a few of our beekeepers have said about their experience:
Bear Country Bees knows what customer service really means!
These guys are very willing to share their knowledge and I felt like I'd known them for years after the first time I met them. I will definitely be using Bear Country Bees in the future for beekeeping help & products!
These guys really care about backyard beekeepers
The guys at Bear Country Bees are really professional and personable. They take extra time to coach us when we visit and they're always prepared with extra supplies. We can always count on solid recommendations for what best fits our needs and the needs of our bees.
As your mentor will be your go-to source of information, they should have a lot of experience in the industry (we’d say at least 10 years). They should also have a good reputation for being a beekeeping mentor.
A potential mentor can have all the experience in the world, but they may just be a crummy mentor. They may not teach very well or may not be willing to go the extra mile to help when you need it.
A good mentor will have enough experience to know how to address problems you will come across. They will also be specialists in dealing with honey bees.
When selecting a beekeeping mentor, you should look for a mentor who’s most important goal is not to sell you something. If all they try to do is sell you things, you’ll likely end up buying a lot of stuff you don’t need.
You might be thinking, “But wait! Aren’t you guys a beekeeping supply company that sells things to beekeepers?”
Sure, we sell beekeeping supplies just like any other beekeeping company. But we make it no secret that the most important thing we do is create the best possible beekeeping experience for our beekeepers.
That is our mission and we stay true to that. Your long-term success as a beekeeper is more important to us than a sale. We want to make sure you enjoy beekeeping as much as we do.
This is the type of mentorship mentality you should look for.
This article from Hobby Farms outlines 4 Ways To Find A Good Beekeeping Mentor if you need some ideas on where to start looking.
What Will It Cost Me to Get Started?
Transparency with is one of our most important values in our company. The reality is that beekeeping is an expensive hobby. We won’t sugar coat it because there is no way to hide the amount of money you can (and likely will) spend.
At a minimum, you can expect to spend upwards of $600 to get started with one hive. This initial investment will get you started with your bees and the tools you will need to be successful with one hive. Specifically, this investment should cover costs for the following:
*Note: prices are approximations only and could vary depending on your setup and vendor selection.
We include all of the supplies as part of our Starter Kit because they are the essentials that you need to have in order to get a successful start. As a bonus, you also receive a discount for buying everything together.
Bee packages are sold separately from the other supplies because they are a seasonal item where normal supplies are not. We offer both Italian & Carniolan bees in 3 lb. bee packages & nucs (nucleus hives) to give our beekeepers as many options as possible.
So for $600+, you can get fully set up and ready to go with one hive.
Obviously if you add more hives, the cost for additional woodenware and bees increases. The good news is is that after your first hive, each additional hive will only cost you about $475 because you don’t have to buy more suits and tools.
Most beekeeping companies offer limited options, but we feel that it’s important to give our customers the ability to customize your experience. Thus, we offer far more options than most other companies. Just know that most other companies generally only have a few options.
What Kind of Time Commitment Does Beekeeping Require?
One of the beauties of having honey bees is that they largely take care of themselves. They are much less time intensive than say a dog or other farm animals that require consistent daily attention.
That said, there are times when you will need to spend more time with your bees. This happens specifically during initial setup, bee package installations, hive inspections, and extraction times.
You will also need to plan more time if you assemble your own boxes and frames. If you buy your woodenware already assembled and painted, it will save you quite a bit of time.
Here’s what we recommend as general guidelines for time spent in each of these situations:
*Note: Similar to prices, times are approximations only and can vary.
While these are general guidelines, the amount of time you spend managing your hive will depend on where you live and what the needs of your bees are.
More important though than the time spent is to be consistent with tending to your bees. Bee Built put it beautifully on their website when they said,
“Beehives require management and good stewardship.”
What’s The Reward for Being a Backyard Beekeeper?
Again, we value transparency so believe us when we say that most people do not get into beekeeping for the money. Beekeeping is not an especially lucrative business unless you are willing to really go all in like we have.
The real reward for backyard beekeepers comes when you extract your own honey. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing that liquid gold flowing nicely into your honey container.
Be aware that you should have several large containers ready to catch your honey when you extract. According to the British Beekeeper Association, strong hives can produce 60+ lbs. of surplus honey in a good year.
We’ve had hives produce several hundred lbs. of honey during good years. You need to make sure you have enough large containers to handle the honey (we like to use food-grade 5 gallon buckets).
Another benefit that we’ve gained from beekeeping is that it has brought our family together. Family relationships are something we value highly and beekeeping has been a strong conduit for strengthening those ties.
Simply put, beekeeping is an amazing family activity and it’s one of our biggest reasons for continuing.
We can’t say enough about how much we love beekeeping and helping new beekeepers get started. That is, after all, why we started Bear Country Bees.
We hope you’ll join the beekeeping club someday soon!
Are You Ready to Become a Beekeeper?!
Did this post get you pumped about becoming a beekeeper? What excites you the most? What questions or concerns do you have? What can we do to help you have a great beekeeping experience?
Let us know in the comments below!