What could be better than a drizzle of local honey on a warm biscuit, or a spoonful swirled into a cup of tea? Most would agree, which is why so many people are beginning to keep honeybees. You don’t need a lot of land; in fact you can keep hives on your rooftop. Beekeeping is rewarding, and your friends and family will look forward to receiving gifts of honey and home-baked sweets, or even beeswax candles and beauty products. Read through the best beekeeping sites to start living the sweet life.
John Caldeira is astonishingly qualified to tell you a thing or two about beekeeping. In addition to home hobby beekeeping, he has worked with the Peace Corps as a volunteer beekeeper in the Fiji islands, and has helped established hives in Moldova and the Ukraine. Caldeira’s current outpost is in Dallas, Texas, where he keeps ten to fifteen hives going. This site is full of advice great for beginners, as he gives very detailed descriptions of how he started beekeeping and why he made the choices he made—opting for an established hive rather than a new hive and mail-order bees, for example. There is also a nice history of American Beekeeping, and under the heading “gadgets,” you will find a dozen or so photos of nifty beekeeping accessories: knickknacks ranging from mobile hives to pumping spouts, hailing from such locales as Finland and Nepal.
Chemical-Free, Organic Beekeeping
Backwards Beekeepers, so named for the group of Los Angeles beekeepers dedicated to the use of observation and natural practices for maintaining their hives, eschew pesticides and other chemical treatments. This arguably forward notion is growing in popularity and while this site is largely LA-centric, there is a fantastic blog and myriad instructional videos on Backwards Beekeepers TV. Kirkobeeo’s intrepid demonstration of hive capturing is admirable, as is his stance on raising bees ethically. The site makes it clear there is a big difference between feral bees and factory bees, and to always wear protective gear. There are posts that will apply to just about any question one might have about beekeeping, just click around.
David and Sheri Burns operate Long Lane Honeybee Farms and this corresponding website. They also teach beekeeping classes in Fairmount, IL. They offer advice to beginners and pros alike with tips on getting started, making the shift from conventional to organic, and learning to turn a profit with honey and beeswax products. This site is unique in its inclusion of a podcast featuring over three years of interviews, recipes, and tips. There is also a very thorough blog, which boasts free online beekeeping lessons. Included here is a section on how to avoid bee-stings, a topic seldom covered in such detail, along with a lengthy section touting the health benefits of bee venom that might even have you seeking the occasional sting. Or not. And finally, equipment, protective clothing, hives, and Long Lane’s own well-tempered queens are available for purchase.
Beginning Beekeeping assures its visitors that anyone can become a beekeeper—men, women, children, and the elderly. Check out the article on Vilis Matulis, who tends to his own bees, despite being wheelchair bound. Following the article are tips on top-bar hive beekeeping, which requires little heavy lifting in addition to being less expensive, ecologically superior, and perhaps more resistant to four-legged predators like skunks. This site also has a heavy focus on urban beekeeping with a section on rooftop beekeeping complete with videos. The links page will direct you places to purchase equipment, bees, books and magazines, organizations, and more.
Biobees is a forum of experienced beekeepers from across the pond who are enthusiastic about a more natural and sustainable way of raising honeybees: top-bar hives. You may download a fully illustrated set of plans to build your own top-bar hives at home, and while these instructions promise to be easy, there is a gentle suggestion that users also read The Barefoot Beekeeper to fully understand the workings and maintenance of this sort of hive. With an app for the iPad, and Android, a podcast, and a Kindle version of the aforementioned book available for download, this site is certainly the tech-iest of all. There are dozens of videos on natural beekeeping as well. However, this page has so much going on, it can be overwhelming for a beginner.
Best Beekeeping, unlike most of the other beekeeping sites, gives lip service to the frightening phenomenon of the disappearing bees, with the typically unsatisfying conclusion: nobody knows why. However, this event seems partly responsible for an upsurge in hobby beekeeping. This page features a great step-by-step guide on how to get started, including talking to your neighbors, and a pictorial guide to all the equipment a beginner will need. This is the spot for all the cursory information on beekeeping, but to dig deeper, check out the link to the bookstore or the blog.
Bush Farms is the place for troubleshooting and anyone who is thinking about beekeeping should read everything on this page before getting started. This site is clear, straightforward, and covers everything. And while Michael Bush does plug his book on the home page, he lets it be known that the content of The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally can be found on the website for free. I want to buy the book just to reward him for being so forthright. The huge section on lazy beekeeping appeals to me, as does the section devoted to translating all the acronyms. While the evidence shows beekeeping moves quickly from hobby to obsession, this page keeps in mind the commonality of the day job among potential beekeepers.