Fun Fact: This will be my second winter as a beekeeper. I’ve been fascinated with honeybees and beekeeping since moving to NH over five years ago. Beekeeping seemed to be a much more common activity around the Upper Valley than where I’m from in NY. When my boyfriend and I were house hunting, it wasn’t necessarily a “must-have,” but I thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if we buy a house with room for bees?” And lo and behold, we did.
We started with two hives and were fortunate to have them both survive their first winter. During the spring, we added a third hive and so far, we’re doing alright. While I’m no expert when it comes to beekeeping, I have learned a lot in the past few years. So today, I thought I would share five reasons why beekeeping is an awesome hobby!
Honeybees are super interesting.
Did you know that a single hive can have between 20,000-60,000 bees? Most of those bees are female, and the females are responsible for doing all the hive maintenance, pollen collection, and pretty much everything needed to keep a hive going. Other fun facts? Each hive produces its own odor that helps worker bees identify it. One worker bee produces just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Male bees are only used for mating with queens. Males have no stinger. Bees only sting when they feel their hive is threatened. Bees don’t want to sting people, because when they sting someone, they die. Bees communicate the location of nectar by dancing. During the winter, bees will remain in a ball in the hive, only leaving on warm days in an effort to clean out the hive and go to the bathroom. Gosh, there are so many fascinating facts about bees, I could go on and on. Their group behavior, the history of beekeeping…it’s all great information. I encourage you to pick up a book about beekeeping to learn more. I like this one and this one, and this one looks good too.
Beekeeping is a great conversation starter.
Since we started beekeeping, I’ve received lots of interest and questions from friends and family. I love sharing how our hives are doing, how much honey we’ve harvested, and some of the fun facts I mentioned above. When you become a beekeeper in a crowd of non-beekeepers, it kind of becomes “your thing.” It’s the thing we end up being introduced along side at parties and when meeting new people. My favorite discussion about bees happens when I help someone realize that honeybees are important and not evil, stinging pests.
Bees are important for the planet.
Honeybees contribute over $15 billion to the value of the U.S. crop production. Many crops require bee pollination to grow and persist, while others would certainly suffer in quantity and quality without the bees’ help. We need bees. We also need to continue to figure out why the planet is losing so many bees each year and what we can do to make sure bees continue to survive, and even thrive, here. Habitat loss, pesticide use, global warming, and diseases are all contributing to the decline of the honeybee. It is important that we understand what role humans play in all of this and what we can do to fix it. I like to think that, although we only have three hives, we are helping the environment by keeping our bees alive and healthy, without the use of harmful chemicals or beekeeping poor practices.
Beekeeping is a community.
We have met so many new people as beekeepers. There are many local, state, and national organizations for beekeepers. I recommend joining a group regularly, or at the very least, connecting with other beekeepers when questions arise. One thing we’ve learned along the way is that every beekeeper has their way of doing things, but everyone has been happy to share tips and tricks and invaluable knowledge. It’s just a matter of taking it all in and then making the best educated decision you can for what works for you and your bees.
Honey is a nice perk.
While we didn’t really become beekeepers with the intention of taking the honey, the bees tend to make much more honey than they actually need to be a strong and successful hive. As a result, we have started harvesting this year, and now we have pounds and pounds of liquid gold. Honey makes excellent gifts (spoiler alert for all my friends and family on Christmas this year 😉 ). You can also sell honey to help fund your beekeeping endeavors. Or, you can use it to cook with and make different health and beauty products (wax can be used for this too!). You can also use honey to make mead, a wine-like beverage.
While I could probably talk for days about honeybees and beekeeping, I think this list is a good start. If you are interested in beekeeping, now is the time to read up, prepare, and figure out if it is truly something you are interested in. I strongly recommend doing your research beforehand. Make sure you are buying the proper equipment and have a good working knowledge of the subject before diving in. Also, now is actually the time to start placing orders for bees (which come in the form of nucs or packages). They tend to sell out quickly and will usually be ordered in winter for pick up in late spring. This gives you plenty of time to get all of your hive boxes and related items ready for the bees’ arrival. It will also give you some time to find a beekeeping group to join (many also offer classes for new beekeepers).
Lastly, I also want to give a shout out to our beekeeping supplier of choice, The New Hampshire Honey Bee in Gilsum. We have purchased our nucs and many other items through them and they have been a great and friendly resource for us in the past two years. Thanks, NH Honey Bee!
To wrap up; bees are awesome. Beekeeping is super fun and interesting. Bee safe. Bee informed. And have fun!