A beginners beekeeping day is a very good place to start, just like doh-re-mi.
This page was created by Bernard Preston on 7th April, 2019.
Having made the decision you'd like to have an apiary, the next step is to attend a beginners' beekeeping day.
It's not a decision one should make lightly. Bees sting and if molested can certainly be dangerous to both you and your neighbours. It's not unlike the plan to purchase a pitbull, and he at least can't jump a stout fence; insects can with ease.
Why would you want to keep a few hives in the garden anyway, if they can sting and attack you and your family?
The reasons are many but the one that probably attracts us most is the realisation that the honey purchased at the local supermarket is highly processed and really doesn't taste that good; and you've read that it's quite likely adulterated.
Heating honey and extracting all the pollen destroys most of its value; it's worth little more than high fructose corn syrup or sugar. Start by attending a beginners' beekeeping day and decide if this is really something you want to get into.
Firstly you'll be taught about the basic protection that you need before opening a hive, and then where to site your apiary.
You will be shown how to assemble frames, and perhaps there will be some discussion about the merits of the Langstroth hive over the much simpler top-bar box.
You will be shown the basic tools you need, like a smoker, and a hive tool, and how to use them.
You will most likely be taken to the honey room and shown the basic equipment that you ultimately will have to acquire, and some alternatives.
You may be able to open a hive or two, see the bees at work, and possibly even harvest a few frames of honeycomb and extract the nectar; you will get to see some of the brood, young larvae that have not yet hatched, and may even be lucky enough to see the queen.
Beginners beekeeping day is where you'll learn the basics and how to avoid a few common but potentially serious mistakes.
Best of all you'll get to rub shoulders with others who are also pondering whether beekeeping is a hobby that they would like to start; you can share and discuss your doubts and there will be experienced folk for you to shoot your questions.
For example, is beekeeping for adults only, or can a child keep a hive or two? It is expensive and how much honey can you expect to harvest from your colony, and how soon?
It's a big decision and a beekeeping day for beginners is where you'll have your questions answered.
There will no doubt be several people sprouting forth, urging you to make a start, hopefully telling of the pitfalls and cautioning you from rushing into something that you may later regret.
There will hopefully be a representative of a local company that manufactures beekeeping equipment; the first two big items on your shopping list are the gear you'll need to protect yourself from their stings; a veil, globes, overalls and boots; and a smoker.
And then your first hive, and how to fill it with bees, will be the next consideration.
Honey bee traps are not difficult to make, but you do need to prepare them in a particular way to make them attractive to swarming bees.
The way in which they reproduce is by breeding a new queen and forming swarming bees, usually during a strong honey flow; this is the time to capture you first colony.
There is much to be learned, like waxing honeybee frames, for example. That you will need to return for a second beginners beekeeping day. If you apply your mind, read some books and scour the net, there's no reason why you shouldn't have your first jar of raw honey on the table within a few months.
Any person can keep a dozen hives, and make good pocket-money, but to turn beekeeping into a profession is another story. However it is a rewarding business with plenty of free time between honey flows.
With reportedly one in four mouthfuls of food requiring bees for pollination, there's good money to be made by moving hives from a crop such as almonds or macadamias to sunflowers and deciduous fruits.
It takes considerable business acumen as well as solid knowledge of beekeeping to make a success of it as a profession.
Perhaps the best part, whether big or small is that not difficult to get your capital back in a relatively short time. A hive costing about R1500 should produce at least 15 kg of honey per year, and often far more than that.
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