To Bee or Not to Bee?

I’ve been keeping bees in my backyard since 1983, and I have a confession to make — I really love my bees. That may sound weird to you if you aren’t a beekeeper (yet!), but virtually everyone who keeps bees will tell you the same thing and speak with deep warmth about “their girls.” They impatiently await their next opportunity to visit their hives. They experience a true emotional loss when their bees don’t make it through a bad winter. Beekeepers, without a doubt, develop a special bond with their bees.

Since becoming a backyard beekeeper, I’ve grown to deeply admire the remark-able qualities of these endearing creatures. As a gardener, I’ve witnessed firsthand the dramatic contribution they provide to flowering plants of all kinds. With honey bees in my garden, its bounty has increased by leaps and bounds. And then there’s that wonderful bonus that they generously give me: a yearly harvest of sweet liquid gold.

Once you get to know more about bees’ value and remarkable social skills, you’ll fall in love with them too. They’re simply wonderful little creatures. Interacting with them is an honor and a privilege. People who love nature in its purest form will love bees and beekeeping. That being said, in this article, I help you better understand the remarkable and bountiful little honey bee by looking at its history and the value that it brings to our lives. I also discuss the benefits of beekeeping and why you should con-sider it as a hobby — or even a small business venture. This article gives you an idea of what equipment you’ll need to get started, the time you should expect to spend maintaining a healthy hive, and how deep your pockets need to be. It also discusses the optimal environmental conditions for raising bees and ends with a checklist that you can fill out to see if beekeeping is for you.

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Discovering the Benefits of Beekeeping

Why has mankind been so interested in beekeeping over the centuries? I’m sure that the first motivator was honey. After all, for many years and long before cane sugar, honey was the primary sweetener in use. I’m also sure that honey remains the principal draw for many backyard beekeepers.

But the sweet reward is by no means the only reason folks are attracted to beekeeping. For a long time, agriculture has recognized the value of pollina-tion by bees. Without the bees’ help, many commercial crops would suffer serious consequences. More on that later. Even backyard beekeepers wit-ness dramatic improvements in their gardens’ yields: more and larger fruits, flowers, and vegetables. A hive or two in the garden makes a big difference in your success as a gardener. The rewards of beekeeping extend beyond honey and pollination. Bees pro-duce other products that can be harvested and put to good use, including beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. Even the pollen they bring back to the hive can be harvested (it’s rich in protein and makes a healthy food supplement in our own diets).

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