To find out more about being a beekeeper we talked to Beekeeper Linda of the blog Linda's Bees. Read on to find out if beekeeping is for you.
How did you decide to become a beekeeper?
I wanted to keep chickens but my kids said that they wouldn't babysit chickens if I went out of town. I was driving about town feeling sad about the chickens and listening to a local gardening show. The host had a female guest who was a beekeeper. She talked about "short courses" (one day courses) in beekeeping. I couldn't go to the first or second one she mentioned but then she said the third weekend ( the only one I was free) was at the Chattahoochee Nature Center near my house and was available for registration. I pulled off the side of the road, plugged in my car phone (ten years ago that's how phones were) and called. I called, registered, took the course, bought my bees and the rest is history.
Could you give us an overview of what the job is like?
Most of the beekeepers I know are sideline beekeepers - this means that they have another job that really pays for their life, but like keeping bees and selling honey. Some beekeepers go commercial and have beekeeping as a full time job. Keeping bees requires paying attention to the weather, being willing to check on your hives regularly every week or so, and being willing to get stung to stay tuned into what is going on in the hive.
How does someone become a beekeeper?
Read books and take a short course from a local bee club or nature center. Find a mentor who can teach you the art of keeping bees.
How much does is typically cost to get started?
A beekeeper should start with two hives. The equipment and bees cost about $450. A bee suit is around $100. That's just the beginning.
What is the pay like?
Being a beekeeper as a living is just like being a farmer. In a year when the rain is good, the weather cooperates, and your bees stay healthy, you can get 125 - 200 pounds of honey per hive. Commercial beekeepers run several thousand hives and may purchase honey for re-sale from other beekeepers. There is also money in selling wax and products of the hive. In general, beekeepers make less than farmers do.
What are the best parts of being a beekeeper?
Working with the bees is calming. The bees are a community into which I intrude, so I move slowly and reverently and learn as much as I can about their ways.
What are the biggest challenges in being a beekeeper?
Weather and disease. Beekeeping is as much an art and philosophy as it is a science. Finding your own way that services the bees' needs and your own needs is hard.
Helpful resources or links on this topic:
Great books:Honeybee Democracy
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping
Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture
The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally
Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health