Beekeeping is one of the best ways to support honey bees while connecting with other people and getting closer to your food source. Best of all, it’s something nearly anyone can do. While most agricultural products require acreage, extensive knowledge, and heavy equipment, starting a bee farm is by comparison inexpensive, simple, and convenient—not to mention “sweetly” rewarding.
Know There’s a Lot to Learn
It’s important not to honey-coat the truth: starting a bee farm of your own is not for the faint of heart. Once you’re up and running, the bees do almost all the work for you, so you can kick back (for a few days at least) and enjoy the delectable benefits of having a bee hive of your own. Until then, however, expect a learning curve and plan for an up-front investment of time, energy, and some money.
Start with Due Diligence
To say bees are remarkable is an understatement. So jumping into a beekeeping operation without proper knowledge would be a disservice to the colony and yourself. Start your beekeeping journey with research.
Ensure you are not allergic to bee stings long before your colony arrives.
Look into local laws. Bees thrive in a city even more than in rural areas, and it’s a good thing: without bees, about a third of our food supply would disappear.
Take a trip to the online library to nab a few books on beekeeping as a hobby. (You want to avoid books that focus on commercial honey production, unless you’re interested in someday turning your new hobby into a business venture.) Grab a couple colorfully illustrated children’s books as well, since nurturing a queen bee, her workers, and her and drones—with parental supervision—is one of the most rewarding educational activities a kid can enjoy.
Connect with your local beekeeping association. Other hobbies allow you to learn the ropes from someone halfway around the globe, but beekeeping is best learned from nearby neighborhood experts. Regional plants are the key to a happy, healthy colony, and only local mentors can offer the most relevant intel on the topic. The association’s website is a great place to start. They can help connect you to mentorship programs, networking events, Q&A forums, and possibly equipment.
Get technical. Download pollen and plant identification apps. Cross-reference flowers you see while out and about.
Find and Prepare a Space
Are you ready to get started? First, you’ll need a safe place for bees to thrive. Cities often have enough shelter for bees to feel safe. The hive’s entrance, however, must face a clear, sunshine-filled flight path to a somewhat open space.
Urban rooftops are a great place for apiaries as they’re far from potential disturbances like traffic and mischievous pets, this allows the bees to fly up and out to their forage. A clearing with nearby trees or a wall offers protection from wind without completely smothering airflow.
Gear Up (and Spend Less)
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to starting a bee farm is simply the equipment you need to succeed. Here’s a handy list:
Hive Poly or Wood
Queen marker and scissors
Beekeeping suit with veil
Extractor (or access to a communal one)
It’s easy to see that you can spend a small fortune starting a bee farm if you’re not careful. That’s why it benefits you to buy used gear for a portion of your operation. Try searching online to find a cheap beekeeper’s suits these can be had for under £50.
Now you’re on your way! Once you have the equipment and space and know how to start beekeeping, you’re ready to welcome home your first family of bees.