Monday, April 14, 2014

11 Reasons You Should Consider Beekeeping

This month marks the two-year anniversary of my husband and I becoming full-fledged beekeepers. I love telling people that I keep bees - some react with fascination, others think I'm nuts. There's this notion that beekeeping is complicated, scary, and even dangerous. Really, beekeeping is none of those things.  In fact, I'm convinced that just about anyone who cares enough about bees can become a beekeeper.

Here are eleven reasons why you should consider beekeeping:

I'll just get this one of the way: one of the best reasons to keep bees is for the honey! This past fall, we got our first honey harvest (we didn't get enough our first year since we had such dry conditions in 2012). You know that difference between a store-bought tomato vs. a homegrown one? Same goes for honey. I've never tasted better honey in my life! I remember eating it the first time, honeycomb and all, and feeling such a sense of awe and gratitude for those bees. Sadly, we are on our last jar of the liquid gold. Our September honey extraction can't come soon enough! (You can read all about our honey extraction experience here.)

2.  Having beehives helps your garden grow....and your neighbor's garden, too. 
Having tens of thousands of honeybees living in your backyard means lots of pollinators for your garden. Our beehives are actually located in my parents' yard (since our city banned beehives up until last year) and I asked my my mom if she noticed a significant increase in her garden's production. She told me that of everything in her yard, her raspberry bushes have benefited the most -- she had more berries on them than in years past, thanks to the bees.  I'm practically begging my in-laws to let me and my husband put a couple hives in their yard since they have a bunch of fruit trees; I'm sure their yields would be even better if we could get more pollinators there! (Note to self: forward this post to hesitant father-in-law...)

3. Beekeeping is a great way to be self-sufficient.
Keeping bees is a wonderful way to be self-sufficient - honey is a great replacement for regular white sugar. There are some start-up costs that comes with beekeeping, but it's a worthwhile investment. If I remember correctly, we spent about $350 when got started -- that price included our two hives (with three deep boxes each), two beekeeping jackets and hats/veils, gloves, a hive tool, a smoker, and, of course, the bees (that price doesn't include the class I took, but that didn't cost much, either).  After a few honey harvests, the hives will pay for themselves. The only real expenses after the initial start-up costs are for mite treatments (all-natural) and any supplemental feeding that may be necessary. Another self-sufficiency facet:  in terms of food storage, you can't beat the shelf life of honey because it lasts forever. Archaeologists have found honey from the ancient Egyptians that can still be eaten today.

4. It takes very little effort and time to keep bees. 
Do you have a dog or cat? You spend more time taking care of that pet than you would a couple of beehives. Even in the peak summer months when my husband and I do regular inspections, we probably spend less than an hour a month taking care of them. Seriously. The less you bother the bees, the better. All they really need is a short-and-sweet inspection every 10 days or so. The only time-consuming part of beekeeping is the honey extraction, but that part also happens to be a lot of fun.

5. Honey is good for your health.
Honey has been used for centuries for health and medicinal uses. Honey contains flavonoids that have been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Honey is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal because the bees add an enzyme that makes hydrogen peroxide in the honey. For this reason, honey is actually a great treatment for wounds. I love adding honey to hot water and lemon when I have a cold, cough, or sore throat. Honey is actually as effective, studies have shown, as cough syrup. Another health benefit of honey is with allergy symptoms. Although there are no conclusive studies, many scientists believe as you ingest the pollen spores in honey in small amounts at a time, your body gets used to them and your allergic response to them diminishes. (One other medical sidenote: Did you know that scientists have found that bee venom can kill HIV? How crazy/cool is that?!)

One caveat: to get many of the health and medicinal benefits, you need to use raw, unprocessed (and local, particularly in terms of helping with allergies) honey. Most of the honey at the grocery store won't cut it. That's where beekeeping comes in: you can't get honey that is more local and raw than the honey that comes from your backyard.

For the other six reasons to consider beekeeping, check out my post at The Green Phone Booth!

{This post is linked up to the Homestead Barn Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, From the Farm Blog Hopand Little House Friday DIY Linky.}


DiverDown said...

My dad grew up on a farm in Western North Carolina in the 1930's and 40's. With 12 siblings one of his many 'chores' was keeping the bees. What amazed me was he has a finesse with the bees that he just wore the bee 'hat' and a long sleeve shirt. He would smoke the hive, pull the racks full of dripping honey and place in a big wash tub. My grandparents had 10 or 12 of those hives. I just remember all us grandkids picking out all the bees that unfortunately drowned in their own honey. We were all sticky, sweet and ate honey till we were sick. Great memories.

Heather said...

Those are simply beautiful memories (and I can't think many prettier settings than North Carolina -- one of my favorite states). I hope my kids are making fun honey-related memories like yours! :)

C said...

This is great Heather! I got interested in beekeeping because of your post and plan on having a hive when I move to my own home. Have you thought of using a top bar hive? I've heard it's a lot cheaper since you can build it yourself and you can just crush and strain the honeycomb instead of using a machine.

Heather said...

You know, I have considered using a top bar hive. Our two hives that we have are at my parents' house, but now that my city decided to allow beekeeping, I've gone back and forth about getting a top bar one for my yard.

From what I've read so far, one drawback to the top bar is you definitely get less honey with a since the bees have to re-make their foundations every year after you harvest (read: less time spent making honey). The extraction with a top-bar hive also seems like a lot more work than with the machine (which isn't hard at all).

That said, I do like that you don't have worry about diseases (like foulbrood, ick) as much with a top bar hive. I also think the top bar hive is fascinating because you can see exactly how they build when left to their own devices, you know? If you go to my Pinterest board about beekeeping (entitled "The Birds & The Bees"), I just pinned THE coolest top-bar hive. You should check it out.

Good luck with your beekeeping aspirations!

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