Beekeeping is one of those hobbies that, even today, seems downright peculiar to outsiders. I mean, who keeps bees for fun?
As it turns out, a lot more people take up beekeeping than you might think and more people turn to this enjoyable, time-honored pastime every day.
But beyond being a quaint hobby mainly enjoyed by folks in rural areas, beekeeping has actually been an important practice over the centuries, both as a method of producing valuable – not to mention delicious trade goods in the form of honey, but also for the improvement of agriculture in the nearby area.
You might be surprised to learn just how many benefits beekeeping offers to those who practice. In this article, we will go over seven such reasons that might give you the motivation to don your bee suit and get busy looking after your own hives.
To Become More Self-Reliant
Many homesteaders are entirely familiar with the raising of crops or the rearing of livestock, comparatively very few give any thought to keeping their own bees.
Bees are a vital and indeed integral part of the natural world, and even at the local level provide many benefits for plants of all kinds.
For you, they can help all of the vegetation on and around your property to thrive and remain healthy.
In the bargain you’ll get valuable products out of your bees, including that delicious honey and beeswax. In the end, tending to your own beehive or two is only going to help your property, homestead and all related endeavors remain prosperous and self-sufficient.
Beekeeping, though it sounds highly specialized to those who don’t practice it, is a great skill set to learn for the avid homesteader.
It will easily complement and supplement other skills such as making craft goods, farming and animal husbandry.
To Produce a Sustainable Source of High-Calorie Food
Let us be honest for a moment: I think every beekeeper, and probably everyone else who was considered to beekeeping, gets into it at least partially for the promise of the “gold.” Gold meaning, of course, the honey!
No one needs to be told how delicious that sweet honey is, but for those who have only ever tasted store-bought honey the first taste of raw, hive-made goodness is probably a life-changing event.
I promise, the honey your bees produce will taste even better because you had a hand in producing it!
Honey is absolutely delicious, especially as an ingredient or topping, but it has much more to commend it than just taste.
Honey is one of those foods that is extremely calorie-dense and thought to be, generally, healthful and helpful for the body.
But, perhaps more important to most readers, honey has the peculiar quality of possessing a practically indefinite shelf life.
There’s been honey literally pulled out of the tombs of mummies in Egypt that was said to be unspoiled and still edible inside its container!
It sounds unbelievable, but even modern evidence has shown this to be largely true. Honey keeps an extraordinarily long time, and even though it might crystallize into a solid form it can be turned liquid again by gently warming it.
Honey is a precious survival commodity if you are a stocking a long-term survival pantry, and that means that beekeeping is an indispensable skill for producing it.
So long as your colonies are healthy and have what they need to eat and gather in the surrounding environment they will produce honey in abundance once they are well established.
Mature colonies of bees can prove to be quite an asset in times of shortage or economic downturn.
To Help Out “Wild” Bee Populations
Those of us who like to stay a little more closely connected to the land and nature have probably already been hearing the grim news on the airwaves for some years now.
Bee populations in the United States and elsewhere in the world are being wiped out at a frightening rate. You probably don’t need me to tell you that absolutely no good will come of this fact.
Between loss of habitat, the increasing use of bee-devastating pesticides in agriculture and mysterious colony collapse disorders, bee populations are plummeting and don’t seem to be showing any hope of improvement in the near future.
But this is where you can help out locally by raising bees of your own.
As it turns out, there really isn’t any difference between domestic bees and “wild” bees. They are both just bees, and that means they will reproduce, spread and reestablish colonies just like they always have.
Though every species of honey bee is different, the vast majority will, at some point, swarm, with a portion of the colony leaving to take their chances elsewhere.
Though not all swarms are successful, this is the primary way that bees propagate across an area and by raising large and prosperous colonies of your own you can help replenish the amount of wild bees in an area over time.
This is always a great thing for the local ecosystem and the plants in particular, as we will learn in just a moment.
To Help Pollinate the Planet
Bees are among the most productive, prolific and successful pollinators of plants on Earth. Some plant species are almost entirely dependent upon pollination by bees for reproduction.
In fact, to say that bees are instrumental in the human food chain, at least as it pertains to agriculture, is no exaggeration.
If we didn’t have bees to depend on for the pollination of many of our crops, mankind would have to invent some artificial method of reliable pollination or deal with the loss, and that is no lie.
This fact should shed light on just how serious the loss of bee populations is in the wild. But even if bees are being kept in man-made hive boxes they still behave as they always have, and are still just as effective at pollinating plants.
Because of this, your so called “hobby hives” can still play an important and beneficial role in local ecosystems out to a surprising distance from your property.
Honey bees can travel upwards of a mile from their hive when foraging, and considering that they can fly pretty quickly it does not take much imagination to see how much ground they can cover in short order.
If you were to draw a 1 mile radius from your hive in every direction on a map you can see how many plants stand to benefit from your bees.
If you have multiple hives or extra-large, mature colonies you’ll have a fleet of bees coming and going everyday pollinating in every direction: a huge help to the plant life in the surrounding area!
Farms, backyard gardens and every kind of wild plant in between will be glad your bees are around, that I can promise.
To Give Your Garden a Boost
Helping wild bee populations and the local environment by keeping bees is a great thing, no question, but this does not need to be an entirely altruistic endeavor.
Bees, like most organisms, would prefer if their food and other vital resources were close at hand and easy to access.
This means that they will be in luck if you grow a garden nearby where they can swoop in for easy access to a quick meal.
The bees will certainly appreciate it, but you’ll probably appreciate it more when you see the good that they do for your plants.
Even considering the best tended garden in the most ideal climate you’ll see noticeable improvement in the health and bounty of your plants if you have a hive of bees nearby “servicing” them.
Whether you desire a bumper crop of blackberries or a cornucopia of cabbage, the service your bees provide for your plants is peerless.
Even if you are growing ornamental flowers your bees will help ensure they become stand out examples of their species.
Also, a fun fact: The taste and quality of the honey that bees produce is influenced directly by the pollen and nectar that they gather to eat.
Many amateur beekeepers enjoy experimenting with different nearby plants and crops for their bees to gather from in order to influence the flavor profile of the honey that they will collect later. Pretty interesting if you ask me.
To Relax and Reconnect with Nature
At the end of the day, for many beekeepers the practice is a rewarding hobby in the most essential way. It is a hobby, work that is done not for profit or because it is necessary, but because it is enjoyable.
Obviously, bees- swarming, stinging insects- give many people considerable cause for alarm, so this isn’t an activity for everyone. But for those who hear the call it is difficult to describe their appeal.
Much of the time, bees are low maintenance, and with or without you they will exist pretty much as they always have.
Bees know what to do for their own best interests, and they will do it without your help. But many beekeepers report a sense of immense satisfaction and relaxation when tending to their bees a few times a week.
Inspecting the hives, seeing their progress, checking for pests and problems and even seeing new generations of bees emerge as time goes on is interesting and calming in equal measure.
Ultimately, as mentioned above bees aren’t really domesticated at all, although we sort of employ them for domestic purposes. Bees are an integral part of our natural environment, and incredibly important.
Being able to see their impact on the environment and industrious activity up close is fascinating, and some people even consider it a privilege that they can get so close and form a sort of relationship with their bees that would be practically impossible in nature.
This-low demand, high-reward activity is extremely appealing for many hobbyists.
Unlike other nature-related hobbies, you won’t need to spend a ton of time or effort pursuing it.
Once established, your colony of bees we’ll just be there and only need a few hours from you a week in order to inspect and maintain it once you know the ropes.
To Start a Side Hustle
Lastly, beekeeping can prove to be quite productive monetarily if you are willing to invest enough time and effort into establishing multiple, productive colonies.
Although it is usually not the primary reason that most people take up the hobby, it is still definitely a viable one, particularly if you approach it the right way.
When considering bees as a business, the most obvious way to monetize their efforts and yours is through the sale of their honey.
Most folks love honey and cannot get enough of it: I can hardly remember a roadside stand or a booth at a farmer’s market selling the sweet stuff that was not thronging with eager purchasers. But bees produce more than honey, something that can make you money.
Beeswax is an extremely popular product used for producing goods or protecting clothing and gear.
It is the primary component in beeswax candles, an ingredient in all sorts of cosmetics and other personal care items, is indispensable for waterproofing clothing and outdoor gear and much more.
Increasingly, people who care about minimizing the impact of chemicals in their foods and other products they consume turn to beeswax as an all natural, no-impact solution for all sorts of things.
And beekeeping as a hobby might prove productive beyond the yield of any given hive. The bees themselves can prove valuable to other amateur beekeepers who want to establish their own hives or replenish lost ones.
A quantity of bees, with or without a queen, commands modest prices on the open market.
This skillset alone is worth a certain amount of money. Your friends and neighbors will probably happily pay you to come in with your specialist gear and remove a hive of bees or other stinging insects from their own properties.
Furthermore, quite a few farmers pay handsomely for hives to be brought into their properties and set up in order to allow the mass and reliable fertilization of their crops.
Remember what we said about the die off of bees in the wild? Farmers, along with consumers of their products, are all feeling the pinch and this is where beekeepers can both save the day and profit for their services. Well, profit off the services of their bees, I guess!
Beekeeping Keeps on Giving
As you can see from the list of reasons above, beekeeping is a nuanced and rewarding hobby.
From the production of delicious food and valuable materials to gaining a better understanding and up-close appreciation of the tiny creatures that fit into the natural world around us.
Beekeeping is truly a hobby that is satisfying in a way few others can be.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.