How Much Work is Beekeeping?


Beekeepers inspecting beehives

Before making the decision to invest my money and time a new hobby, I was curious as to how much work is beekeeping. You already know that beekeeping is really interesting and important to our planet, but you are not sure whether you have the time? In this post I will share what I have learned when I started in beekeeping about the work it actually takes.

How much work is beekeeping? You can expect to spend about forty hours per year working on one hive to ensure that it thrives.  For your first year, you should plan on adding a few more hours since you will want to research and spend as much time as you can dedicate to learning about your new, buzzing honey bees.  Other factors that may increase the amount of work you have to do as a beekeeper include the number of colonies you are raising, the climate, predators, and if you have someone else assisting and sharing the joys/responsibilities of beekeeping with you.

Now that you have an approximate estimate of the time you will need to invest, you may be curious about what the day to day tasks of beekeeping actually are.  Are you wondering how many times you’ll get to don that snazzy beekeeping get-up you dropped some cash on? Or maybe you want to know if there is a slower time of year so you can plan a vacation without getting a “beebysitter.”

Yearly Responsibilities of a Beekeeper

Let’s take a look at the work you will want to do as a beekeeper each season to make sure your hives are healthy.

Spring will be one of your busier times of the year as a beekeeper, especially later in the season.  This is when you’ll introduce a colony to the hive and feed them for a couple of weeks, if this is your first season.  Some of the other responsibilities you’ll have (both your first year and all the years following) include watching and nurturing the bees and, once the weather turns warmer, inspecting your hive every week (time to wear that fashionable beekeeping suit)!

Summer is also a peak season for the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate.  Along with your weekly inspections, there may be some maintenance needs. The hive may need some repairs and you may have to do some extra work to keep your bees from jumping to another hive. During your weekly inspections, one of the things you’ll be keeping an eye on is how full the honeycombs are getting so you’ll know when to harvest honey from your hive.

Fall is the season when you can kick back and enjoy some of that honey! Now is the time to go on that vacation I mentioned earlier because your bees will be less busy.  Before the weather gets too cold, you’ll want to make any repairs to your hive and do anything else you need to do to prepare your hive for the freezing cold temperatures that winter brings.

Winter is a great time to learn more about beekeeping.  Many experienced beekeepers will tell you they are lifelong learners and keep learning new things about beekeeping even after many years of raising hives.  Check on your hive from time to time to make sure it is in good condition and make any needed repairs. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your bees’ food supply.  There’s a chance you may need to provide them with a supplemental food source in order to keep them healthy and happy over the long winter months. This is also the time to look at your equipment and make sure you have what you need.  Remember to order more bees if you need some to start another hive (or replace a colony that did not survive).

Indirect work

Throughout the fall and winter seasons, you will have fewer direct responsibilities when it comes to your bees.  What better way to fill that time than learning more about how to take care of your precious bees?! There are several ways you can glean new information about beekeeping. For those of you who still like the way a book feels in your hands, these are the books which I read and really liked:

  • Beekeeping for Dummies
  • The Backyard Beekeeper
  • The Beekeeper’s Bible
  • The Beekeeper’s Handbook
Beekeeping books stacked on a table

The book which gave me a great kick start in beekeeping was Beekeeping for Dummies. I know, it is labeled ‘for Dummies’ but there is nothing dumb about the book. It is not too heavy for a beginner and has the information which you actually need to start beekeeping. So if you are thinking about reading a book on beekeeping, I would recommend you start with this one – click here to check the price and availability on Amazon.

There are also many online forums which you can join.  Some are free while others require a subscription. If you are new to beekeeping, you may want to consider starting off by joining one of the free groups until you get a better feel for what the different forums offer.  Some of the more popular, free beekeeping forums are:

In addition to books and forums, you may be interested in a more formal option such as a beekeeping class.  In some areas, the local recreation department or another organization may offer in-person classes. After a quick Google search, you should be able to tell if this is an option for you.  If so, and it works for your schedule, enroll and enjoy the time to pick the brains of some local experts and get to know other beekeepers in your area. You never know when the connections may come in handy…maybe there’s a new piece of equipment you’ve had your eye on and you can borrow it from one of your new bee friends to take it on a test drive before purchasing one of your own!

If a traditional, in-person class is not offered in your area or doesn’t fit into your schedule, there are online classes you can access as long as you have a computer and an internet connection.  As with the forums, you may be able to find a class offered for free. Spend a little bit of time researching which class will be a good fit for you before signing up, especially if there is a cost associated.  Some classes are geared toward beginners while others may be for beekeepers who have been at it for years. Some classes may get more into beekeeping for profit. It’s important to spend your time learning what is going to be most helpful for you and your hive for the following busy season!

Is beekeeping a full time job?

If you are thinking about taking on beekeeping as a hobby, it is not a full time job. I know quite a few beekeepers who manage around 15 – 20 beehives and it’s not their full time job. They do enjoy the perks of beekeeping and make some side income and it doesn’t take up all of their time.

On the other hand, if you are planning to keep bees to make as much profit as possible and scale to as many hives as you can, then it is a different game. It will be full time job and more as with every other business.

How do I become a beekeeper?

There are several steps you will need to take to become a beekeeper.  The first is to learn as much about beekeeping as you can prior to purchasing your bees.  Even though you may end up spending some money, consider it an investment in your (bees) future! Check out my post to give you the quickest way to start beekeeping – how to start beekeeping for beginners.

It’s also helpful to speak with someone who is already in the field. That person may have advice for you specific to your area and can also answer your questions.  The last step is to purchase the equipment and hives. When you are new to beekeeping, it’s best to set reasonable expectations for yourself and start small with two or three hives.

Go for it, honey bees need you!

As you can see, beekeeping will not require a huge time investment if you take it on as a hobby first. And this is the approach that I would recommend – start small and if you fall in love with it, scale fast. You will be able to scale up number of hives quite fast once you know how to keep bees in a sustainable way.

I really hope that this post proved that when it comes to time, you don’t need much to start beekeeping. You just need to be interested in bees and be willing to take action. If you have any questions about how to start or have any comments, please leave one below or reach out to me via the contact form.

Keep buzzing!

Paul

My goal is to show you that beekeeping is not that complicated, that you can also learn to do it, fall in love with it and help our planet while doing it.

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