We’re so used to depending on honeybees for pollinating crops and for honey that we often forget that they’re not native to North and South America. Honeybees (Apis melifera) were introduced by European settlers. While most families used to keep bees for personal use, beekeeping isn’t as common today. It’s still a great hobby, however, and it’s not hard to get started.What to do first? The best way to start is to purchase an established hive from a reputable source. Just be sure to buy a unit containing a hive body and one super or frame in which the bees build their comb. Even better, purchase two hives so that you can combine the equipment if a problem occurs with one of your hives.
The best time to begin beekeeping is in the late winter or early spring. This allows you to complete an entire beekeeping cycle from spring startup until harvest in the same calendar year. Starting anytime through June will allow the bees to become established here in Virginia. There is an old bee saying that is worth remembering: “A swarm in May is worth a load of hay. A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon. A swarm in July - let ‘em fly.”Beekeeping equipment can be simple or high tech. You can start with the basics -- a veil, smoker, gloves, a hive tool, a bee brush, bees, a hive and super, and foundation wax. As time goes by and your beekeeping operation expands, you’ll want additional equipment. An extractor, for example, is useful if you have more than several hives.
Interested in learning more about keeping bees? Then it’s time to talk to an established beekeeper. Most enjoy sharing information and like to show others all about their craft. Your local extension agent should be able to help you contact a local beekeeper. Welcome to the world of beekeeping! It’s a fascinating hobby and the rewards are just so, so sweet.