Questions and Answers from E-Mail:

Getting Started in Beekeeping

Q. My father wants to get a hive of bees. Where can we find the equipment? - from JGG, 10/11/96
A. Basic equipment necessary for starting in beekeeping may be purchased from one of several major bee equipment manufacturers. Write for catalogs from:
Alberta Honey Producers Co-op, Box 3909, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3B1
Bee Maid, 625 Roseberry Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H 0T4
Dadant and Son's, 51 S. 2nd Street, Hamilton, IL 62341
A.I. Root Co., 623 W. Liberty St., Medina, OH 44256
Western Bee Supply, P.O. Box 171, Polson, MT 59860
Walter T. Kelley Co., Inc., P.O. Box 240, Clarkson, KY 42726
These companies manufacture and retail a wide variety of equipment and by ordering both catalogs, you may compare prices. The catalogs include information detailing the correct equipment for getting started in beekeeping. In addition, I would urge you to find a local beekeeper and ask if any equipment is available for sale. Most beekeepers are very helpful about getting someone started and may even have equipment for sale. Be sure to have the equipment inspected before making a purchase!

Q. How do I get started at beekeeping? - from RS, 9/21/96
A. I would urge you to find a local beekeeper and ask lots of questions. Each part of the world has very different conditions for beekeeping. The local beekeeper will be able to advise the best time of the year to get started, whether or not the local flowers will support the bees with sufficient nectar or whether the bees will require extra feed from the beekeeper, when to put extra honey storage boxes on the hive, and other precautions. Most beekeepers are very helpful about getting someone started and may even have equipment for sale.
You should also contact your state's apiary inspection service in order to register as a beekeeper, and perhaps to get the name of a local beekeeper or two.
The other bit of advice is to check out the resources in the local library and keep reading the Web pages. Some excellent WWW resources include Tom Sanford's APIS Newsletter Home Page and Tucson Bee Research Lab. The A.I. Root's Bee Culture has excellent articles and timely information. For general beginning information, try Practical Information from University of N.C., Getting Started in Beekeeping, from the British Beekeepers Association, and our own Beeginner's Page.

Q. Can anyone become a beekeeper? - from CTS, 7/4/96
A. Though I was a farm kid and we had bees on the farm, many beekeepers never worked with honey bees until they were middle-aged. The largest bee farm in the USA a hundred years ago was owned by a French immigrant who started his first bee hive after he came to America - when he was 46 years old. Another very successful beekeeper, who founded a company that publishes a beekeeper's magazine, began keeping bees while in his fifty's - after quitting his jewelry-store business. Other beekeeper's include former medical doctors, the defensive end from the Baltimore Colts football team, bankers, psychologists, and scientists. The head of the largest international beekeeping association earned her doctorate in nuclear physics. One of the largest beekeeping businesses in Texas and South Dakota was operated by an ex-Boeing aircraft engineer.
Throughout history, beekeepers have included Aristotle, Pythagorous, Emperor Marcus Aurelious, Sir Edmund Hillary (he and his brother had 1200 hives of bees in New Zealand before Hillary scaled Mt. Everest) and the actor Henry Fonda.
I mention all this because it is important to recognize that people from a very wide variety of backgrounds, education levels, ages, talents, and former careers have been attracted to beekeeping as a hobby, as a supplemental income source, and as a full-time career. Beekeeping is one of a small number of occupations which can be started on a hobby scale for a few hundred dollars and can grow into a multi-million dollar business.
People who want to consider beekeeping should enjoy being independent and should be able to run their own businesses. This implies a self-motivated disposition, a sense of responsibility, and willingness to perform many different types of tasks. The beekeeper should be a good sales-person, should be good at keeping track of money and accounts, should enjoy hard, physical labour, should be willing to work ten and fifteen hours per day at certain times of the year, and should really have a keen, alert, and interested 'scientific' sort of mind. The beekeeper must pay attention to lots of minor details, as well as signs of changing seasons, floral conditions, bee-hive strengths, and potential problems with the bees (subtle indications that the hives may be suffering various illnesses, may need new queens, extra food reserves).

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