Johnny Mason, March 5, 2012:
Where I live in Flint, Michigan, when you mention that you’re a beekeeper or interested in honey bees, you either get, “Wow, that’s really cool!” or “Bees creep me out. You’re nuts.” or something along those lines. See, Flint is historically an auto manufacturing town and anything resembling agriculture in the city is few and far between. Although, there has been a recent uptick in green initiatives in Flint such as urban farming that has been amazing to see!
Anyway, why would someone become an urban/backyard beekeeper? Well, I think there are tons of reasons, but here’s a few (in no particular order) off the top of my head…
1. The big picture. This is a big part of why beekeeping appeals to me. The interconnection of it all is awe inspiring. Not just how the bees relate to each other, but the impact tiny little creatures actually have on our environment, the foods we eat and the industries we benefit from. Talk about something bigger than yourself! Pretty amazing stuff.
2. It can be relaxing. When you are managing a hive, you need to be slow and purposeful so that you don’t upset the bees (or squish them) and possibly get stung. This can do wonders for your blood pressure and help you unwind from the stresses of day-to-day life. I guess you could think of it as Tai Chi with bees. Tai Bee?
3. Help your garden! If you take a lot of pride in all of the flowers and trees that you’ve planted on your property, I’m sure that you’d like to see them thrive even more. Bees are amazing pollinators, and that will only make your plants more successful. Since the bees fly for miles away from their hive in search of nectar, you’re also helping the plants in your neighborhood.
4. Want to make a few extra bucks? Sell the surplus honey, wax, propolis, and pollen that the bees provide. Make candles, lip balm, hand creams, etc from the wax. This stuff is all good for you, and much healthier than most commercial alternatives. People also take pride in keeping their money local. Heck, keeping bees a monetary investment…why not make some of it back?
5. You like a challenge. There is a lot to think about, and tons of problem solving in beekeeping. What kind of hive do you want? Langstroth, top bar, Warre, something else? What breed of bees? Why? What are their pros and cons? How do I handle ventilation? What about overwintering? What kind of feeder is best? Do I even want to feed? Pests…what about pests? How do I handle those? What can I do to make my hive more productive than last year? Keep nucs or not? How do I handle swarming? Do I actually even want to try to prevent it? Blah, blah, blah…etc, etc, etc… See? There are all kinds of things for you to analyze.
6. You’re helping to repopulate the bees. It’s no secret that bees are disappearing in large numbers. By keeping a bee hive, you can do your part to help them out.
7. Appreciation for an ancient craft. Beekeeping in various forms and methods has been around for thousands of years. Many ancient skills such as glassblowing and even farming itself has seen a huge decline. Maybe your mother or grandfather was a beekeeper. Why not help to sustain a proud and important tradition?
8. The sense of wonder. The more you watch the bees, the more you read and learn about them, the more you want to know. Trust me. They are amazing.
Well, that’s just a sampling of the many reasons rolling around in my brain. I’m sure you have some of your own to share. Let me know in the comments!