When I’m out working in the hive, veil and gloves on, smoker lit, holding frames of bees, it is very common to have people from the community stop to check out the unusual sight.
I am frequently asked where did the bees come from and if I am doing it for the honey. Well, today I am going to answer these questions and give you the steps to take to begin your own adventure as a beekeeper.
Disclaimer: the process below is for Nova Scotia. Be sure to check the regulations for your specific area.
Why keep bees? The answer to this question is multifaceted.
1. Honeybees provide honey. Not a shocking statement. But in my first year as a beekeeper, my family enjoyed a 25 lbs harvest of honey. While, this is an abnormality, and you should not expect to harvest any honey from your hive the first year (we were pleasantly surprised), it does show that the return on your investment can come quickly.
I was also able to harvest some beeswax from the hive which can be used in many different ways!
2. Honeybees are the most abundant pollinators. It is estimated that 1/3 of our food is dependent on pollinators.
3. Bees are an important part of our ecosystem and are currently endangered. Unfortunately, over the last decade, the honeybee population has drastically fallen across the globe. This is due to diseases, mites, and other pests. Beekeepers play a role in raising the population of this important species.
So, with all these in mind, why wouldn’t we want to help manage and protect the honeybee species?
Where do the bees come from?
There are commercial and hobby beekeepers in every province. And every hive needs to be split almost every year. If a beekeeper does not split the hive, the bees will do it themselves (half will leave in a swarm and form a wild hive elsewhere). Talk to a local beekeeper about purchasing bees – that way you help the beekeeper and you can get bees!
What do I need to do to start beekeeping?
1. Before you start keeping bees, you need to understand how a hive works. Take the time to do research on the roles of different bees within the hive. Get an idea of some of the problems that honeybees experience.
2. Look for courses from experienced beekeepers or see if there is a experienced beekeeper who will mentor you. I never took a course but I spent about three months researching (largely on YouTube) before I made any purchases. I have also made many phone calls to experienced beekeepers in the province. You are not alone.
3. Check out the permit requirements for your area. In Nova Scotia, you are required to have a beekeeping registration. The registration, however, is free and easy to send in your application (the form is about half a page long).
4. Equipment. You will need a smoker, veil, gloves, and hive tool as well as the hive itself. I have linked the gear I bought from amazon below.
I built my own hive, and purchased frames to go inside, but you can also reach out to your local supplier to buy the entire kit.
Be sure to also check out your local beekeeping supplier. Not only will they have the equipment you need, but they are also a great resource for answering questions you may encounter along the way. In Nova Scotia, reach out to Country Fields Beekeeping Supplies. Country Fields has sold me equipment and hive maintenance products, and given me advice on more than one occasion.
5. Now it is time to find some bees! Reach out to local apiaries and see who is selling bees.
The basics of beekeeping is not difficult but it does have a steep learning curve. Once you have passed the steep curve, you will need to continue to learn because the bees will continue to challenge your knowledge. Diseases, re-queening, parasites and predators are among topics that you will want to continually expand your knowledge on to keep your hive happy and healthy.
Honeybees are fascinating creatures with a society that is not seen anywhere else in nature. I can promise you that once you begin learning about them, you will get so enthralled that it becomes second nature to continue your education into the species. They’ll teach you something new every time you open the hive.
So, with all that said – welcome to beekeeping! Welcome to a meaningful journey that impacts the survival of a species, of the food we eat, and of the beautiful world that we live in.