Getting into beekeeping

People get into beekeeping for a variety of reasons. Maybe they want the honey, need the bees for pollinating a fruit crop, or just to help increase the declining honeybee population. It’s wise for new beekeepers to start out small with just a couple of hives. You will also need a hive tool for opening the hives, a smoker to subdue the bees, and a bee brush to gently remove them from a surface.

Jim Tew is the state beekeeping specialist for Alabama Cooperative Extension. He says spring is the ideal time to get started. Visit with other beekeepers in the area, and go to meetings to learn about the hobby and find where you can buy bees.

"Package bees is a screened box of bees that has three-pounds of bees, a queen, and a feeder can. So essentially, the new beekeeper is buying a swarm in the very early spring months, and these will be provided by area beekeepers who have become specialists," says Tew.

 You need an understanding of the honeybees' behavior during handling and moving.  And probably most importantly, know what your reaction is to bee stings.

When your bees arrive, be sure you’re wearing protective gear.

"Most new beekeepers really start out suited up. Head to foot, top to bottom, front to back. Nothing is exposed," he says. "But as they grow, they tend to lighten that equipment load more and more so that probably after two-or-three years, they’re basically just wearing a light top suit and a veil to protect their eyes."

Honeybees can be kept almost anywhere there are flowering plants that produce nectar and pollen. Choose a site that is discrete and sheltered from winds.