5 Reasons to Start Your Own Bee Colony
Beekeeping is all the buzz. However, if you aren’t convinced to give it a go yet, here are five reasons you should consider starting a bee colony.
Consumers, gardeners, and politicians understand the importance of bees and what it would mean to our world if we lost them. As a result, it is becoming more common to see wooden boxes on rooftops and tucked into the corners of backyards.
Beekeeping has become a hot trend. City zoning regulations around the country have changed to allow beehives, and grants are being given to bee farmers.
If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, there are many reasons you too should consider starting your own bee colony.
Honey is liquid gold. Not only does it sweeten your tea, taste delicious on toast, and add flavor to a baked ham, but it also provides plenty of health benefits and can be used as a natural remedy for countless ailments.
Honey contains vitamins, enzymes, trace minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids. It is well known for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. A spoonful of honey per day has been said to alleviate coughs and sore throats, fight off cancer, boost your immune system, keep seasonal allergies at bay, reduce cholesterol, and help you get a good night’s sleep.
When applied topically, it helps wounds and burns heal faster, treats eczema, softens skin, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Ayurveda, the Indian medical system that has been around for centuries, routinely uses honey as a carrier for medicinal herbs, claiming that honey carries the medicine deeper into your tissues.
Many store-bought brands of honey have been pasteurized or have additives, such as high fructose corn syrup, that eliminate honey’s positive qualities. So, it is important to use raw, local honey if you want the benefits. You can usually find the good stuff at your local farmers’ market, but it is simple and rewarding to start a bee colony and produce your own.
Beeswax doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It has dozens of helpful uses around the home and in your beauty routine. When used on your skin, it creates a protective barrier that still allows your skin to breathe. It also contains vitamin A, which is one of the best vitamins for your skin. For these reasons, it is perfect in homemade lip balms, lotions, hair-styling aids, salves, and soaps.
You can also use the wax to make your own furniture polish, waterproof your shoes, make dental floss, wax your sewing thread, coat your kitchen pans so they don’t stick to food, seal yard tools so they don’t rust, and cover your homemade cheese.
Beeswax is also ideal for making your own candles. While many commercial candles emit toxic chemicals, beeswax burns cleaner for longer and produces a lovely smell.
On a side note, honey bees must consume 8.5 pounds of honey to make one pound of beeswax, which they use to make the honeycomb in their hive. Honeycomb holds the bees’ honey in small hexagon-shaped buckets.
That shape is no accident, so you know. Since it takes so much food to create a small amount of wax, bees tapped into their mathematical genius to come up with the most efficient way to use it. Hexagons allows them to use the least amount of wax to store the most amount of honey. Pretty smart little insects, if you ask me.
Good for Your Garden
Raising your own bee colony is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Honey bees will pollinate your plants and increase your yields. (Yes, many crops can self-pollinate or be pollinated by wind, but some of our favorite plants need the help of pollinators; if you grow flowers, cucumbers, melons, berries, or fruit trees, bees will dramatically increase your harvest).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables.”
Encourage Bee Populations
In May 2016, the USDA released a report on bee colony losses in the United States from January to March 2015. Losses ranged from a negligible one to four per cent in states like North Dakota, Hawaii, and Idaho to a whopping 40-48 per cent in states like Illinois, Maryland, and Ohio.
The reported average loss throughout the United States was 18 per cent for those months. Since bees play such an important role in pollinating many of our food crops, the fact that so many of them are dying off is cause for concern.
Scientists have been working hard to get to the bottom of these losses, but there seems to be multiple causes contributing to these numbers. Varroa mites are a leading cause in destroying colonies. Once they attack a honey bee, its immune system is weakened, allowing dormant viruses to manifest.
The sick bee then spreads those viruses quickly throughout the colony. Varroa mites are the bane of most beekeepers’ existence. Other factors also play a role, including the widespread use of toxic pesticides and a lack of food for bees as natural landscapes are replaced with concrete.
Well-informed beekeepers play an important role in encouraging bee populations. By managing healthy hives, we can make sure bees are with us for many generations to come.
Start Your Own Business
Compared to other farming start-ups, beekeeping is relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance. Beginner beekeeping kits can be found in the $150-500 range, and they include most of the things you need to get going, such as a hive, basic tools, a smoker, veiled hat, and gloves.
Also, bees don’t need to be fed, watered, and milked daily like other livestock does. In fact, they just need you to check in on them once a week or so to make sure they look healthy and honey production is on track. They are pretty self-sufficient and may only need some extra food from you in the spring and fall. The bulk of your beekeeping work will be when you harvest the honey, which should only take about a day for one to two hives.
Once you harvest your honey, you can sell your surplus online, at farmers’ markets, or at your own farm stand. You can also sell your beeswax and other homemade products such as candles, lip balms, salves, soaps, and lotions. Beekeepers can also earn additional revenue by renting out hives to farmers to help them pollinate their crops.
There are many reasons to start your own bee colony. Whether you love the honey, want to help your garden and the environment, or want to make some extra money, beekeeping is a low-cost, low-maintenance hobby that adds value to your life.
Look for a beekeeper association in your area; there is sure to be a seasoned beekeeper that will be happy to help you get started.
Written by Monica Mansfield | Homesteader, Owner & Writer of The Nature Life Project
Monica Mansfield is passionate about gardening, sustainable living, and holistic health. After owning an indoor garden store for 5 1/2 years, Monica sold the business and started a 6.5-acre homestead with her husband, Owen. She writes about gardening and health, as well as her homestead adventures on her blog at thenaturelifeproject.com.