Why Keep Bees: Four Good Reasons Besides Pollination and Honey
Most people, even those that don’t want to keep bees, know two good reasons why someone would, pollination and honey. These are the only reasons that most beekeepers need, but if you are on the fence about whether or not to give beekeeping a go, or you need to convince a reluctant spouse, here are some other benefits.
1) Beekeeping connects you with the natural world. As a beekeeper, you will watch the weather and learn to pay attention to what the plants are doing far afield because bees actively forage two miles or more from the hive. You will learn to pay attention to what plants the bees are likely to be visiting, both for pollen and nectar. Are the maples blooming? Is the clover going to do well this year? Is the goldenrod still blooming?
After keeping bees a couple of years, you will be better tuned to the rhythm of the seasons than you ever were before. You will know when the maple trees are blooming in late winter, when to expect the privet in spring. You will sadly watch the clover wilt in the summer heat and watch for the golden rod in the fall. Rain will mean more to you than the need to carry an umbrella.
You will also become aware of how your bees respond to changes in the environment. The population in the hive will expand in the spring as flowers bloom and nectar starts to flow, and the queen will slow her laying when the nectar flow stops as the flowers fade.
While watching your bees on flowers you will notice other insects like bumble bees and wasps. You will learn which plants are pollinated mostly by butterflies, bumble bees, or hummingbirds. The web of life will become clearer to you.
2) Bees don’t require daily attention. Other animals that you might keep, dogs, cats, chickens, whatever, require daily feed and water, at minimum. If you go out of town, then arrangements must be made to have someone care for them. Not so with bees. Just take off. If your bees are in good shape when you leave, then they will be in good shape when you return. Beekeeping is an excellent hobby for someone who travels on a regular basis.
3) Beekeeping is one of the few hobbies that can potentially pay for itself. A few colonies in a reasonably good area for honey production can produce more honey than most families can use. The surplus is easy to sell; local honey commands a premium price in the marketplace. You won’t make back your initial investment in the first year, probably not in the second, but if you make good management decisions, don’t buy a lot of equipment that you don’t need, and increase your colony numbers using the ones that you already have, you have a good chance of eventually operating in the black.
4) Beekeepers have become folk heroes. The loss of honeybees to Colony Collapse Disorder and other problems the last few years have received a lot of press and elevated the status of beekeepers in the mind of the public. We are perceived to be saving the world one bee colony at a time. I have even gotten out of traffic tickets because I am a beekeeper. State troopers at a road block were checking licenses and proof of insurance. My tags were expired and I couldn’t find my proof of insurance. I did, however, have a couple of queen bees in cages on the console of my truck. After a short conversation about bees and beekeeping, the friendly trooper waved me through. It’s nice to participate in something that the rest of society views as beneficial.
So there you go, if pollination and honey weren’t enough reasons to start beekeeping, now you have four other excellent reasons. Go ahead and get started. You will be glad that you did.
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