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Today is May 23, 2022

Beekeeping requires planning, patience

By Susan Collins-Smith

Beekeeping requires planning, patience

People interested in beekeeping should take time to answer some important questions and develop a plan before beginning this hobby.

One of the best ways people can learn about the hobby is to join a beekeeping group, said Jeff Harris, Mississippi State University Extension Service bee specialist.

“Local beekeeping clubs often have members with many years of beekeeping experience, and they are absolutely a great way for you to learn about the hobby before you begin,” Harris said.

“They give great advice about any of the major issues new beekeepers may face, invite knowledgeable speakers to their meetings, and often offer hands-on demonstrations with live beehives,” he said.

Beekeeping can be done in cities and rural areas, but Harris recommends checking local ordinances and laws before beginning, no matter the location, because rules vary.

“Even if there are no laws restricting beekeeping, all new beekeepers need to consider where they want to keep their bees,” Harris said. “The most problematic issues can be with neighbors in urban and suburban settings who fear your bees. Honeybees can be safely kept in these areas, but careful consideration about how best to protect your neighbors, and therefore, future problems with you, should be a priority.”

Keep hives in an area that are shielded from view, such as behind trees or shrubbery. Make sure they are kept away from pets and high traffic areas, such as where children play.

Place hives near ample food supply and easy access to water. Provide water sources close to the hive, such as shallow pools or dishes filled with pea gravel and water. Consider installing a drip irrigation line to keep the water sources filled.

Buy gentle bee stock, and work bees during quiet periods when nearby neighbors are indoors and when pets and children are not rowdy.

“Honeybees can vary widely in their level of defensiveness, or their tendency to sting in response to a perceived threat,” Harris said. “Word of mouth among beekeepers is a good way to find the gentlest bees.”

Labor is not a huge concern for hobbyists with only a few hives. Hives are worked at least once every one to two weeks during the active, spring growing season, once a month during summer and winter, and again every one to two weeks in the autumn growing season.

Cost is another factor to consider. Start-up costs can run between $450 and $550. People should expect to spend between $300 and $400 to purchase all the woodenware that houses the hive. A starter bee colony with one queen and 10,000 worker bees costs about $150.

Michael Scheel, a member of the Southwest Mississippi Beekeepers Association who got into beekeeping as a hobby after finding his late father-in-law’s equipment, said beginners should expect a learning curve.

“I read and researched methodically, but I still struggled in the beginning,” said Scheel, who now has 70 hives and plans to expand to a total of 150 by the end of 2022 to supplement his income in retirement.

Scheel said experienced beekeepers make up the most important learning resource.

 

Susan Collins-Smith is a writer for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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