Reason 1: Pollination in your garden
If you grow your own veggies, you will notice the difference a bee hive makes to your harvest. I went from having very little success with crops like eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, pumpkins and tomatoes, to producing a bumper harvest with just one bee hive placed near my veggie garden.
Bees visit flowers to gather nectar and pollen for their own food, and in the process they pollinate flowers. This means you will have better rates of pollination for anything in your garden that produces flowers. You will produce more vegetables, fruit and seeds that rely on insect pollination.
Reason 2: Honey and beeswax
Who doesn’t love freshly harvested raw honey? When you collect your own honey, every batch is different depending on where the bees have been foraging. Bees make the honey from nectar. They mix the nectar with enzymes and reduce the water content so that it can store for a long time in their beeswax honeycomb.
If you have several hives it is worth investing in gear to extract the honey. Then you can also sell or barter your excess. If you only have one or two hives you can still collect honey by crushing the honey comb and straining it through a sieve.
When you harvest honey, you will also have some of the honeycomb to melt down into beeswax. This is a very useful natural product. It can used to make things like candles, salves and balms, furniture polish and beeswax wraps. Again, any excess can be sold or bartered.
Reason 3: Learning about bees and meeting other beekeepers
I recommend that every new beekeeper joins their local club and attends a course if possible. There is so much to learn about bees. We are always reading and talking to other beekeepers. This is a great way for everyone young and old to expand their knowledge of biology. A few friends have found that is a hobby they can share with their children as well.
Reason not to: Saving the bees
If you’ve heard that bees are endangered and that is your main reason for getting a hive yourself, this is not a good reason to get bees. Honey bees are not endangered, there are plenty of commercial beekeepers looking after honey bees. Getting a hive that you then don’t or can’t look after puts those bees at risk of disease, which can then spread to commercial apiaries.
Many other bee species are endangered and need your help. The best thing you can do to save these bees is to plant flowers and stop using chemical herbicides in your garden.
If you are ready for the work (regular inspections of your hives) then you will get the benefits of enhanced pollination for your veggies and orchard, tasty local honey and a crash course in biology (and lots of new beekeeping friends). Then you have all the right reasons to be a beekeeper.
Liz Beavisis a small-scale cattle farmer and soap-making beekeeper in rural Queensland, Australia. On herEight Acres Farm, she sells beef-tallow soaps, honey and beeswax, and is the author of Our Experience with House Cows, A Beginners Guide to Backyard Chickens and Chicken Tractors, Make Your Own Natural Soap, and theSolar Bore Pump Handbook. Connect with Liz on Facebook, Instagram, andPinterest, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.