It is usually wise to start small, learn efficient management techniques, and expand the beekeeping operation as time, experience, and finances permit. Initial outlay can reach $200 per hive, and other equipment, such as a smoker, veil, gloves, feeding equipment, honey extractor, etc., will add to the expense.
Anyone interested in becoming a beekeeper needs to study published information (see Further Resources: Books, Websites, Periodicals), but many beekeeping skills are best learned by working with an experienced beekeeper. The Alberta Agriculture, Food, and Rural Development publication Commercial Honey Industry states: "Only through hands-on experience can new entrants gain the basic skills required for opening hives, removing frames, identifying queens, recognizing the difference between brood and honey cappings, and recognizing the difference between honey and pollen in a cell" (Dey, 2001).
The American Society of Beekeepers make the following suggestions in the final lesson of their Beekeeping 101 class:
One way to find other beekeepers who can help you with problems you encounter is to join a local bee club or state organization. Bee Culture Magazine publishes a Who's who in beekeeping each spring. You could check the listing for the state in which you live and contact the individuals listed. Ask them for information about bee clubs and who you need to contact. The person listed under the Department of Agriculture responsible for inspection should have a good idea. They are often called upon to speak at local meetings. The State Extension service should also be a good source. If you purchase either major bee magazine — each carries a calendar of events. You can get an idea of where the nearest bee meeting is to you. These are generally state or regional meetings. (American Society of Beekeepers, no date-b)
Beekeeping can be labor-intensive during certain times of the year. Working with bees requires a gentle touch and calm disposition. It also requires a basic understanding of the honey bees' behavior during the various seasons and during handling and moving.
Beekeeping can be undertaken by anyone who has enough ability and determination to look after the bees properly, enough courage to work with bees, and enough money to buy bees and equipment. Please note: Before you get into beekeeping, you should check to make sure local zoning laws allow you to keep honey bees and what your reaction is to bee stings. (American Society of Beekeepers, no date-c)
Beekeeping is not a seasonal enterprise, but requires year-round management. The beginning beekeeper needs to consider his or her available labor limitations, and keep the enterprise at an easily managed size. The enclosed Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) publication Summary of Management
Practices Around the Calendar provides management suggestions, and is also available at <http:/ / maarec.cas.psu.edu/bkCD/Startkeeping/ Starting.html>.
The Mississippi State University publication Getting Started in Beekeeping provides an excellent summary of what is required to begin. The publication suggests:
If you decided that you wanted to get started in beekeeping, you would need the basic components of the hive, a source of bees, protective gear, ancillary gear, and equipment for handling the honey crop. The hive is the man-made structure in which the honey bee colony lives. New bee equipment is generally unassembled when purchased. Assembly directions furnished by bee supply dealers are usually easy to follow. It is important for beginners to purchase their equipment early so that it will be ready to use when the bees arrive. Some beekeepers find they can save money by making their own equipment or purchasing used equipment. With both approaches, it is important that the equipment is standard size. Purchasing used equipment can present problems and is not recommended for the beginner. Initially you may have problems simply in locating a source of used equipment and determining its value or worth. In addition, secondhand equipment may be contaminated with pathogens that cause various bee diseases. Always ask for an inspection certificate indicating that the apiary inspector did not find any evidence of disease.
There are several different ways of getting started in the bee business: buying package bees; purchasing a nucleus colony (nuc); buying established colonies; collecting swarms; and taking bees out of trees and walls. Most beginners start with either a package or a nuc. Packages are the preferred way. In purchasing nuclei and colonies you might be buying other beekeeper's problems, such as mites or disease. Collecting swarms and transferring bees is difficult and not recommended for the beginner. The best time to start with bees [is] in the spring or early summer.
Ancillary equipment includes the bee smoker and hive tool, which are essential for working bees. Bee veils should be worn at all times to protect the face and neck from stings. Beginners who fear being stung should wear canvas or leather gloves. Many experienced beekeepers who find gloves too cumbersome decide to risk a few stings for the sake of easier handling. White or tan clothing is most suitable when working bees. (Collison, 1996)
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Companies that have beekeeping stuff deal with all the equipment that is required for this business, like attire for bee keeping which is essential from head to torso, full body suits and just head gear. Along with this equipment they also sell journals and books on beekeeping to help people to understand this field better. Some of the better known beekeeping companies have been in the business for more than a hundred years.