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Permalink What can you tell me about keeping bees on my farm?

Answer: 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.

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.

It is best to learn beekeeping skills from an experienced beekeeper. You'll learn basic skills required for opening hives, removing frames, identifying queens, and recognizing the difference between honey and pollen in a cell. You can find beekeepers by joining a local bee club or state organization. Bee Culture magazine provides a list of contacts in each state.

Beekeeping can be labor-intensive during certain times of the year. It is not a seasonal enterprise—it requires year-round management. Beginning beekeepers needs to consider their available labor limitations and keep the enterprise at an easily managed size.

Other things beginning and experienced beekeepers may need to consider include:

Location of hives. Hives should not be located near homes or areas used for recreation. Hives need to be near nectar and pollen sources and fresh water; protected from predators, vandals, and adverse weather conditions; and accessible throughout the year.

Processing honey and other bee products. Follow state and federal regulations for processing, labeling, and handling food products.

Marketing honey and other bee products. Consider different types of products and marketing strategies. Will you market to consumers at farmers markets or on-farm, to retailers, to a honey cooperative, or to honey packers?

Disease and pests control. Mites, beetles and disease are things to be aware of and know how to treat.

Anyone interested in keeping bees for pollinating plants or for producing additional income from bee products should first investigate all available sources of information. County Cooperative Extension offices are a good source of information on beekeeping, as are entomologists and apiculturists at your local land-grant university. State apicultural inspectors, usually with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are another good source of information. These sources should be able to provide contact information to local beekeepers. Hobbyists are often very willing to discuss their management techniques, problems, and solutions. These contacts will indicate successful techniques that have been used in a specific climatic or geographic area.

For more information see ATTRA publication, Beekeeping/ Apiculture at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=76. This publication is intended as a guide for anyone interested in beginning or expanding a beekeeping enterprise. Whether the bees are kept as pollinators for crops or for the income from their products, producers need to be aware of their state's apiary laws concerning inspection, registration, and permits, as well as labeling and marketing standards.

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