There is a big difference between having bees and keeping bees. Many people have bees, but do not keep them, and consequently do not have bees for very long. There was a time when you could leave your bees alone in the backyard, visiting them a couple times a year to see how much honey they had, and harvest the extra.
That all changed in the 1980s and 90s. We will cover this in the module on Pests and Pathogens. Beekeeping now requires understanding bee biology and the pests they host, knowing what to do, and judging the right time to do it.
All the same time, beekeeping is unique among much of animal husbandry in that bees do not require daily attention. It is usually possible to leave them for a week or more, if precautions are taken before and after. There is no daily watering or feeding or finding someone to fulfill these responsibilities while you are away.
Plan to visit your hives once a week through your first season. Here are some things beekeeping does require:
- Punctuality – the bees never wait for you to be ready, nor do the flowers. When it’s time, it’s time.
- Scheduling must conform to the weather – essential jobs must be done when the weather is right. Sometimes the right weather or the right temperatures only last for one day – or less.
- A beekeeper must be pro-active, not re-active.
- The best time to “start beekeeping” is late summer or fall – learning, planning, reserving bees, purchasing and assembling equipment, etc. all need to be done prior to acquiring bees in the spring.
- Beekeeping involves much more than just working the bees:
- construction of hives
Anything that is worth doing is worth doing right. There is much reward in healthy and productive colonies. Be sure that you can devote the time required. Improperly managed bees are a threat to everyone else’s bees as well as your own.
“Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.”