Mother Earth News Blogs > Homesteading and Livestock

Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Good Reasons Not to Keep Bees


If you've read my blog for very long, you know that I think keeping bees is a great idea. I think people should keep bees in the city, in the country, in the suburbs, on the rooftops, wherever they can fit a hive. In my blogs, I've extolled all the good reasons for keeping bees: helping the bees to survive when the rest of the world seems hellbent on poisoning and starving them, pollination for your garden, honey for your table.

Despite all these good reasons for keeping bees, some very good reasons exist for not keeping bees. I'll list a few.

1. You want a hobby that makes money. Bees are expensive! The woodenware to put them in, the protective clothing, the tools, the actual bees, the vehicle to carry the equipment around in, a honey house and equipment for harvesting the honey, not to mention continually replacing all of the aforementioned. I kept bees for 6 years before I ever made a penny in profit. Since then, it's been hit or miss, like any other kind of agriculture only without the subsidies!

2. You want a hobby that requires very little work. Keeping bees is hot, hard, heavy work, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line. Harvesting occurs on the hottest days of the year, when you will be sweating inside 2 sets of clothing to lift heavy honey-filled supers from hives of ill-tempered bees.

Beekeeping requires continual study and learning to stay ahead of whatever is trying to kill them: honey and larva predation, mites, fungus, bacterial and viral diseases, pesticides, to name a few. The many things you will have to learn will include bee and honey plant biology, crude carpentry, and your local weather and seasonal patterns.

3. You think you won't get stung. For some reason, a lot of people think that if they're nice to their bees and handle them just right, the bees will like them and not sting them. This is crazy-thinking! Bees are insects, a super organism. They are intent on their purposes, not yours. If it's a nice warm and sunny day when the world is in bloom, they will fly to and from the hive and probably totally ignore you. However, if you are tearing into their hive on day when they are all home with nothing much else to do, they are going to defend their stores and brood nest! That's why they have those little barbed stingers on their butts--to keep critters like you out of their business. You will get stung from time to time.

If you've read these reasons not to keep bees, and you're still thinking, "Yes, but..." get yourself some bees! I can't image not having hives of these wonderful creatures around my place. They are a source of continual learning, challenge, wonder, and sheer joy (when they aren't making me crazy). Keeping bees will teach you not just about bees, but about the plants they forage on and how bees and wild plants fit into the rest of the natural world. If you're lucky and take the time to be very observant, they will even teach you how you fit into that world! If everyone kept a box of bees, maybe we'd all become humble stewards who care for and try to fit into the world around us rather than arrogant masters who try to control and enslave the natural world and only end up poisoning it and us.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.