By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz… September is National Honey Month! So what better time to dabble in the sweet world of beekeeping?!

This unique hobby proves rewarding on a number of levels — from communing with the great outdoors and honing a timeless trade, to resourcefully replenishing a sweet condiment in one’s own cupboards, or even exploring the possibility of a honey bee business venture.

Wondering whether or not you may have a calling in beekeeping?

Here are 5 basic questions every beginner beekeeper should consider before taking the plunge:

1. Who can be a backyard beekeeper?
2. What beekeeping supplies are essential?
3. What is the cost of beekeeping?
4. Who’s who in the world of hives and honey?
5. Will a beekeeping hobby be for fun or for funds?

These are pretty loaded questions, so let's take 'em one at a time. First things first…

Who can be a backyard beekeeper?

Beekeeping Location, Location, Location!

The ideal beekeeping candidate depends on a number of factors – most of which actually rely more on natural circumstances than anything else. (Of course, a healthy curiosity and genuine desire to mingle with the bee business does help as well.) Climate and landscape are two biggies when it comes to where honey bees are most successfully housed. Climate-wise, bees can thrive in nearly any geographical area that produces flowers… check.

(And not to worry, they know how the winter game goes, so they’ll hunker down, safe and sound, over the span of any chilly months… check, check).

When it comes to landscape, a common misconception is that only folks living out in “the sticks” (with neighbors much further than a stone’s throw away) are able to enjoy beekeeping. In reality, many urban dwellers (even in the thick of a major metropolis) safely nurture honey bees via areas like rooftops and community gardens.

Ruling the Beekeepers’ Roost

Eager beekeepers beware! Got your attention? Good. Don’t worry — this isn’t anything too daunting, just a friendly heads-up.

Uncle Sam (or his cousins — e.g., city/town council, etc.) may have a say in how some beekeeping is done. That is, certain rules may be enforced (especially depending on where you live), in order to ensure beekeeping activities are kept fun, safe and comfortable for all. For instance, some ordinances may require an 8-foot fence to frame the beekeeping area, forcing bees to fly high overhead when venturing off to scout out their pollen sources, thereby avoiding the risk of being a nuisance to immediate neighbors.

That said, it’s wise to scope out zoning restrictions, neighborhood HOA rules and so forth in your neck o’ the woods, before running to Home Depot to splurge on apiary supplies for your would-be colony’s home sweet home.

And one last thing… it's always nice to be neighborly! If you're questioning whether or not the fella next door will be down with your hive, just ask! Explain the low risk of stings and how honey bees tend to do their own thing — then maybe sweeten the deal a bit with the offer of free honey.


The Beekeeping Whisperer

And last but not least, when it comes to who can pull off being a backyard beekeeper, a certain amount of personality does come into play with the honey bee game. A little bit of authentic interest in the secret life of bees certainly goes a long way. However, the best beekeepers also appreciate spending time outside, as well as the light manual labor that comes with maintaining the bees and hive(s) throughout the year.

As with any new hobby, it’s natural to have a few reservations about engaging with bees on a more interactive level — beyond a simple wrist-flick swat or shoo. But it’s a pretty safe bet that folks who are less skittish around these striped, flying sensations will be find the most enjoyment in their beekeeping roles.

(Does a severe allergy to bee stings make you wary of being around these zippity-doo-dah honey-helpers? If so, that’s a very large and in-charge factor you should carefully consider. Always put your health before a hobby!)

If you’re on the fence about your comfort level, get your feet wet with a trial run first — before investing in any honey-making homies. Local bee farms, colleges and universities often offer hands-on tutorials to the public, allowing for exploration of how to raise bees — ranging from half-day experiences to full series of classes. (Helpful honey-lovin’ hint: A quick internet search should be able to locate a local bee farm for you. Alternatively, your local Chamber of Commerce is should also have some info handy to pass along.)

Think you fit the beekeeping bill so far?

Check back with us soon — the next buzz will be all about beekeeping supplies that are absolute essentials, should you give this new honey-harvesting hobby a go!