Beginning Beekeeping Important Questions
Thinking of adding honey bees to your backyard (see 3 Reasons for Homestead Honey Bees)? Here are 7 beginning beekeeping important questions to ask before committing to honey bees (we didn’t necessarily think of all these before adding ours):
Where will you locate the honey bee hive(s)?
It’s a good idea to try and imagine everything bad that could happen, and then locate the hive(s) with that in mind.
As a minimum, consider sun, shade, isolation (out of sight – out of mind is often good for neighbors), weeds, mowing (bees don’t like vibrations like those cause by lawnmowers), bad weather access, distance from the house, pests (skunks, bears, vandals, neighborhood boys, etc.), nearby activities (gardens, pools, etc.), pesticides, and getting equipment to the hive(s).
Have you considered the honey bees flight path?
Bees act like airplanes in flight, so it’s important to make sure that any garden, pool, or human activity area is not in their takeoff or touchdown flight paths. You don’t want you (or your neighbors) to continually be in their way as they leave and return home!
If you put a six-foot fence or hedge around the hive(s); however, you can cause them to alter to a higher flight path earlier from takeoff causing them to be less likely to interact with humans.
What does your homeowner’s insurance policy say about keeping honey bees?
Some insurance companies have real issues with beekeeping and others don’t. It’s better to find out what your insurance company thinks before the bees arrive. And, are you planning on selling the honey? If so, you’ll need coverage for a business, not just homeowner’s insurance.
Are honey bees legal where you intend to put them?
Not all cities, townships, or homeowner associations allow honey bees, so be sure to check before acquiring your bees. Make sure that you won’t have to later remove the honey bees!
Have you discussed this with all your family members?
The bees will have an impact, so make sure everyone’s on board – or at least somewhat willing to have them around. It will take time to care for them, there’s always the potential that family members will get stung, and there are costs involved for equipment and maintenance.
Where will the honey bees get their water?
Honey bees need one gallon of water per hive per day, and you’ll want to control where they’re getting their water. For example, you probably don’t want them getting their water from your neighbor’s pool.
You can train honey bees to get their water from a particular source by scenting the water (almond or vanilla extract are easy to add to your water source to attract them) and once they start going to one smell they’ll always return to it. It’s a good idea to keep the source of water near the hive; it gives them more time to make honey, rather than gathering water.
What will the honey bees eat?
It takes one acre blooming continuously from frost to frost (in our part of the country) to support one hive. Since there are few continuously blooming acres around, this means your bees will probably forage between 1 – 2 miles away.
It’s a good idea to take a look at something like Google Maps to see where your bees will be gathering their food (for example, it might not be great to locate them in the midst of soybeans – or you might produce GM (genetically modified) honey.
Other beginning beekeeping important questions:
There are many other things to consider when starting with honey bees (such as the type of bee, equipment needs, and maintenance); however, the questions above are the basics that really need to be considered – and sometimes get overlooked. Another source for things to be considered is Oregon State University’s write-up on Residential Beekeeping.
If you’ve answered all the questions and are ready to start, check out How to Start Honey Bee Hives!