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People keep bees for a variety of reasons: They enjoy fresh, organic honey. They want to give crops and gardens a boost. Or, maybe they're looking to keep bees for profit and sell the honey they produce. Whatever your reason for wanting to keep bees, ensure you bone up on the process first. Know what equipment you need to keep yourself safe from stings, and thoroughly understand what you'll need to do to keep your bees healthy.
Take a Class in Beekeeping
If you've never worked with bees before, consider taking a class on beekeeping. Beekeeping classes are quite common. You'll find them online -- often for free or for a requested donation -- and at local community colleges. If there's a beekeeping club in your neighborhood, it likely has someone available to teach or mentor new enthusiasts. In a beekeeping class, you'll learn what types of equipment and supplies you should buy and where you should buy them. You'll find out how to manage your hive, how to prevent swarming, and some of the basic ins and outs of bee behavior. An introductory beekeeping class will be enough to get you started as a hobbyist.
Purchase Your Equipment
Beekeepers need a lot of equipment and supplies, so be prepared to spend a significant amount of money to get your hobby off the ground. Things you'll need include hives, frames and personal protective gear such as gloves, hat, veil and jacket. You'll want to purchase common hive tools such as a bee brush and smoker. And then, as you become more knowledgeable in keeping bees, you might want to buy more specialized equipment -- a propolis trap or a queen excluder, for instance. Each item has a purpose, and as you become more familiar with your bees, you'll be able to figure out which tools will prove most useful for you.
Buy Your Bees
Ordering bees is much easier than you think. Many beekeeping supply houses require you to come and pick up your bees, because shipping them can stress the bees (not to mention your local mail carrier). Bees are purchased by the pound, and you'll need approximately three pounds of bees per hive. Three pounds usually consist of about 12,000 bees and contain one queen. If you do have them shipped, they'll arrive in a wooden crate with screened sides -- roughly the size of a shoebox. The cost of a bee shipment this size typically runs anywhere from $100 to $200, depending upon whether you have them delivered or pick them up yourself.
Install Your Bees in the Hive
Once you get them home, spray your new bees gently with sugar syrup, and place the box in a cool, dark room for several hours. This helps the bees de-stress from shipping. Spray them with sugar water again before installing them in the hive, and always wear your protective equipment. To install them, simply remove the queen and the feeder from the box, and set them aside. Remove several frames from the hive to make room and then shake the box of bees upside-down over the hive to release the bees. Install the queen last by removing the cork to her protective cage and exposing the white candy sugar. Place the tiny cage containing the queen inside the hive, sugar side up to allow the bees to eat the sugar and release the queen.
Anne Goetz shares her parenting and career experience with North American Parent, Hagerstown Magazine, c0ws.com, Lhyme.com and a variety of other online and print publications. A mother of two with a degree in communications and a long history in management, Goetz spends her spare time hiking, camping and blogging. She is the author of the site, An Unedited Life: The Ultimate Blog for Freelance Writers.