Have you ever dreamed of harvesting your own honey to drizzle on biscuits? Have you imagined seeing your garden pollinated by your own bees? Many farmers are turning their interests to beekeeping.
Beekeeping benefits can be enjoyed by the whole neighborhood, not just the beekeeper. Bees will travel up to three miles searching for food and pollinating everything in their path. When it comes to crops, pollination is essential. In order for crops to produce, the plants must be fertilized with pollen, a powdery substance made by flowering plants. Pollen is the male element in the fertilization process, and the stigma of the plant or flower is the female element. When pollinated, the plant is able to produce the fruit or vegetable. Bees can do this pollination work for you. “Having a hive of bees increases productivity of the farm,’’ says Jeffrey Maddox, a beekeeper who recently moved to Missouri from Indiana. Having your own hive can also be a buffer against Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). No one is sure what causes the bees in CCD hives to die or disappear, but small farm beekeepers can aid in the fight against CCD by carefully monitoring hive activity.
Entrepreneurs will appreciate the extra income bees can produce. Maddox, who produces and sells honey and beeswax candles, states that, “bees add a supplemental product to your farm.” In addition to pollination, bees will provide you with honey, beeswax and royal jelly, which can be marketed as jarred honey, honey sticks (a top seller according to the Beekeepers Association of the Ozarks), candles, soaps, lotions and body care products. Some beekeepers even rent out their hives to producers for pollination purposes.
Education and equipment are the two necessities for beekeeping success. A few beekeeping essentials include: a package of bees, a hive, a bee suit, a smoker and a hive tool. Beginner kits can be purchased from beekeeping suppliers that include the bees and the basic tools. “Get education,” advises John Deeds, President of the Beekeepers Association of the Ozarks, “get a mentor and hands on experience.” Educate yourself about bees by researching books, the Internet (check your sources to make sure they are reliable) and by joining a beekeeping club. Beekeepers are friendly, informative folks who love to share their passion with ‘bee’-ginners.
Safety is important when working around bees. A sting or two every now and then is inevitable, but most stings can be avoided by wearing proper clothing when working around bees and by using calm, controlled movements. Avoid squishing bees, as it can cause alarm throughout the whole hive. Checking to make sure all of your equipment is in working order prior to working bees is also a good safety practice.
Beekeeping is an enjoyable, relaxing hobby that many ages can participate in. With the right tools and some honey bee know-how, you are well on your way to sweet success.