Benefits of beekeeping
Do you like to eat?
Yes? I knew it. You were meant to be a beekeeper. Loving food is a sure sign that you should keep bees.
What? You don’t agree? Well, without bees to pollinate our crops, a third of our food would disappear.
And let’s be honest. Who wants to eat nachos without salsa or toast without jam? That would be tragic, right? And that’s why we desperately need bees and people who love food to be beekeepers.
Still not convinced? Here are my top 10 benefits of beekeeping and why you should keep bees or have a beekeeper like myself install a hive in your backyard.
Top 10 Benefits of Beekeeping
Do you like to be happy? Aha! I’ve found another reason you’d be a great beekeeper. We’ve all heard that “more stuff” doesn’t bring happiness (at least after you’ve met your basic needs). So, what will really make you smile? Experiences. Interesting experiences will boost your happiness and bring more meaning to your life. That’s right. Bees will do all this for you. Because I can’t think of a more amazing and mind-expanding experience than opening a hive of bees and watching thousands of these important pollinators at work. I can guarantee it will be an experience unlike any you’ve had before.
Feeling a little stressed out? It seems that every time I turn around someone is touting the benefits of mediation from reducing stress to improving sleep and increasing happiness. So, of course, I tried it. And guess what? It doesn’t work for me. But that’s ok. I can do something just as good for my health – open a hive. If that doesn’t force you to live in the moment, I don’t know what will. So, you want to be more mindful? You want to focus? You want to achieve mental clarity and stay calm? Open a hive containing 60,000 bees. Trust me. You won’t be able to focus on anything except your every movement, the busy hum of the bees and the intoxicating smell of honey and beeswax.
In my opinion, there is no better way to be in the here and now, fully engaged in the activity at hand. And it all ends with honey. Now that is my kind of meditation. We homesteaders don’t have time to waste. We like our meditation to be productive. So, take a deep breath, centre yourself and get a hive of bees.
Can you think of anything more fun and exciting than dressing up like an alien and watching bees dance? Ok, maybe you can. But beekeeping is a lot of fun. Really! Once you get over the fear of being stung, you will realize that bees are actually very gentle, curious and fascinating creatures. In fact, the more I study them, the more I am amazed. In case you are curious, yes, bees can dance. This is one of the ways they communicate to other bees where and how far a source of nectar is located.
Honey…and lots of friends
You thought this was going to be first on my list of the benefits of beekeeping, didn’t you? But here’s a little secret of mine. I actually don’t like honey. That’s right. I have seven hives with plans to expand even more this spring and I’m not crazy about honey. But I do like to bake with it. Honey is the special ingredient that makes the most delicious and moist breads, cakes, muffins, pies and jam.
But it turns out that most people do love this liquid gold and are eager to get their hands on a jar of local, raw honey. In fact, you will be excited to discover that honey from your own hives actually tastes different and much more delicious in my humble opinion than what you can buy in the store. Just like the veggies that come from your own garden. So, don’t be surprised when your extended family, friends and neighbours suddenly take new interest in you.
Bonus: This sweet treat is one of the only foods that never spoils. A pot of honey found in an ancient Egyptian tomb was proved to be as wholesome as fresh honey.
Of course, honey has many other uses than just as a food, which brings us to the next benefit of beekeeping:
Having local, raw honey is like having your own secret superpower. Do you have a cough or sore throat? Honey can help treat it. Do you have a cut? Honey can help heal it faster. Do you suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms? Honey can help reduce your symptoms. Honey is a powerful remedy.
That being said, I wouldn’t advise eating jars of it unless you are Winnie the Pooh. Honey is still sugar. But it is healthier and easier to digest than cane sugar. It contains high levels of antioxidants that fight oxidative stress and inflammation as well as trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, enzymes, amino acids and flavonoids. To be honest, I have no idea what a flavonoid is, but apparently honey has it, and it’s good for you. So, go ahead and add a heaping spoonful to your cup of tea.
Caution: Honey is not suitable for children under the age of one.
Honey Wine (Mead)
Did you know you can ferment your own sweet honey-based wine using raw honey? I didn’t. I had never even heard of mead until I went to speak at a Mother Earth News Fair. Jereme Zimmerman gave a talk on using wild yeast to create wild-fermented mead and my mind was blown. Check out his book, Make Mead Like a Viking. Or better yet, visit him at one of the upcoming fairs and try your hand at making mead during one of his workshops.
Forget about commercial products! You can make your own cosmetics, salves, creams, lotions and lip balms with wax from your own bees. Of course, you can also make candles, beeswax wraps, deodorant, soap and so much more. If you are a DIY like me, having your own source of beeswax is a must and a huge benefit of beekeeping.
A Productive Garden
Are you a gardener? Then raise your hand if you like having a productive vegetable garden? A backyard beehive is your answer to a great harvest. Bees pollinate blooms within a five-mile radius of their hive. Without them, your garden may look healthy and lush, but you won’t be harvesting basketfuls of your favourite veggies. And if you happen to have a fruit tree or a berry patch, the more bees that visit your plants, the better the size and amount of fruit they will produce.
Bees are the easiest livestock to keep
So far, my bees have been the easiest livestock to care for on the homestead. I don’t have to feed and water them every day. I don’t have to clean up after them. I don’t have to trim their hooves or keep them contained. And for several months of the year, I don’t have to do anything at all. Most of the work is done in the early spring when you are first getting set up or splitting hives and requeening. During the summer, most of the work is simply ensuring the bees have enough room to expand and that there are no diseases in the hive. Work picks up again in the fall when it is time to harvest honey and close up the hives for the winter.
Bees are a great conversation starter
Beekeeping is the most popular topic on my blog. It is also a fascinating topic for discussion whenever I first meet people. Let’s be honest. Most people think I’m crazy but they are always eager to learn more about bees and the benefits of beekeeping. And, of course, if I have honey for sale.
There are many, many more benefits of beekeeping. But I’m wrapping this post up because I’m now eager to go outside and check on my own busy bees. How about you? Do you want to venture into the heart of a hive? Are you eager to try beekeeping? Let me know in the comments below or feel free to ask me questions. I’m sure you’d make a great beekeeper!
PS. Beekeeping is not dangerous (unless you have an allergy)
If you have an allergy to bee stings, beekeeping can be dangerous. Fatal reactions are rare but it can happen. One of the first things I suggest you do before getting into beekeeping is to ensure you are not allergic
Otherwise, you will discover that honeybees are not aggressive. They are actually very passive creatures. But they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. So far, I have only been stung twice in four years. Stay tuned for another article on “how not to get stung”.
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