Calling All Beekeepers

by Daisy on 11/24/2010

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Earlier this month, I called on all chicken keepers to share their experiences and thoughts about keeping chickens.  The responses were so good, I wanted to do it again–this time with you beekeepers.

I’ve got a couple of questions for you in this post.  Feel free to poke your head in with any beekeeping-related observation.  I want to learn from you.

What do you love about keeping bees?  Why do you do it?  How did you get started, and what are people’s responses to your hobby?

If you keep bees in an urban/suburban location, what are the challenges you face and how have the neighbors responded to your hive(s)?

We plan to share several of your responses in our upcoming book.   I think hearing from the horse’s mouths, so to speak, is one of the best ways for readers to get a real sense of what something is truly about.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna November 25, 2010 at 7:42 am

We got bees because I love honey and the good kind is very expensive. I got lucky and found a grant through our extension service that pretty much paid for our first hives — equipment and bees. (Every state has their own extension service programs, but quite a few have these bee-keeping grants — they’re very much worth looking into.)

I love the way, when working with bees, you absolutely have to be present in the moment. If you don’t focus on that hive, you’re going to get stung. If you do focus, you can mess around with the lives of thousands of stinging insects and barely bother them.

People seem to be very interested in our bees, but I’ve noticed that beekeeping is more difficult for the layman to grasp than chicken-keeping.

Kimberly November 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I got into bees because we wanted to get away from using sugar. I wanted to make sure that the honey I eat is as chemical free as possible. You can’t control what the bee gets into when it’s out and about, but you can control what goes into the hive. I was shocked at all the chemicals that even local bee keepers want to put with their bees. Moth crystals….really?

I was careful to buy my starter bees from a guy that uses only organic practices with his bees. He also bred them to be very gentle. If you buy bees from someone that uses lots of chemicals, the bees are really not strong enough to survive on their own.

I live in a rural area, but I do have neighbors. I took the time to educate them about bees. The first important lesson to teach is that not everything that flies is a bee. The second was that if it is stinging you just for the heck of it, it is for sure not a honey bee. I invited them over to see how gentle the honey bees were at the hive and the neighbors quickly lost all concerns about the bee hives. I also told them to alert me to any swarms they may see.

I like to grow my own food, so the honey bee is here on the farm to pollinate my crops. I did see an increase in vegetable production. The increase in vegetables plus the honey production make the bee a valuable addition to my small farm.

Nancy November 26, 2010 at 10:34 am

I am a gardener first of all. My reason for getting bees was for three main reasons , First was the pollination , second was plight of the honey bee, third was the challenge.I live in a rural county but my street does have neighbors, we have close to an acre with woods/swamp to the back. I only have an older couple on one side,they don’t work their yard at all. So as far as telling anyone I only called the county to see if it was legal.
I love working with the bees.It is an awesome privilege, sometimes intimidating but always challenging and rewarding.I have been trying to let the bees do their thing without interfering to much. This was our second season and we got a gallon and a half of delicious honey for our family but also left a whole box for the bees.

Quaint Homesteader November 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I’d like to have a top bar hive, and I recently met a neighbor who used to raise bees who I hope to learn from! She also has a couple of chickens in her back yard too.

LaRee November 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I have chickens but never ever seriously thought of having bees. I have lots of small children, and there’s school aged neighbor children coming through our yard daily, their parents are different than me, I like to always know where my children are. Last week they chopped out all my grape vines and a young fruit tree… the 8 year old told me “they were dead anyway”……
So, say if I were to get into keeping bees, any advice for me?

Tomato Lady November 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm

LaRee–I’m tempted to say something about letting the bees guard your garden from mischievous children, but the truth is i keep my bees in a locked, gated area to keep out curious kids. I already had a this corner of the yard fenced, so it wasn’t an additional job. This is a tough one. The discussions on the forums below may offer more questions than answers, but they’re worth reading to see how others are responding to this issue:

Anny December 19, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I don’t even eat honey, I wanted the bees because I find bees interesting, they are an amazing insect. The more I read up and learned about them the more I wanted my own hive to watch. I also wanted them to help around the garden. I found that keeping bees can be very calming, which most people wouldn’t think was true. But when you are with the bees, you have to be with them 100% and it’s very calming and almost like Yoga to me.

I go started by playing around on the internet looking up many many websites, and checking out books. I eventually discovered the “Top Bar” bee hive and FELL in love.

Everyone though I was crazy for wanting bees. They also though I was really crazy because I don’t even eat honey!
I found someone selling bees online and meet up with him. That was over 2 years ago, and I’m addicted. I want more hives!

If you keep bees in an urban/suburban location, what are the challenges you face and how have the neighbors responded to your hive(s)?

I live in a major city. I have a pretty small backyard, and I keep my top bar hive in a far corner of my yard facing the 6 foot high privacy fence. The bees never bother me, or anyone in the area. My biggest challenge I faced was neighbors fearing the bees, or not knowing very much about them. Most of the neighbors don’t even know I have the bees and always ask what that “box” in my yard is. When I tell them it’s a bee hive they freak out and tell me about how they once got stung by a bee and it was probly one of my bees. I also have people call me and ask me to remove the bees they have in their yard, and I’ll go there to discover a WASP nest, blah!

Lori Sotelo December 24, 2010 at 8:15 am

i am so interested in starting a bee hive box thanks for this info!

Jennifer December 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I am a soon-to be bee keeper. I plan on starting this year. I was wondering, the picture above, is that from a top bar beehive? That is the kind I am thinking of having. If it is, how did you get started with it? Do you have information posted somewhere I could look at?


Tomato Lady December 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Jennifer–Here’s where I post about my start:
I reference, which has a lot of good stuff, including a forum where you can read and ask questions. I built a top bar hive, and am now building a Warre hive as well. Unfortunately, I lost my colony, and am getting another this spring, so I plan to resume more blogging about my new start, hopefully a little bit wiser. Good luck!

Adrean February 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Do you keep honey-bees and chickens in the same yard? I’m on a small city lot w/ 5 hens in my backyard. I really would love to have a top-bar hive for honey-bees, but I’m worried that the chickens will clean them all out. :S

Tomato Lady February 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Adrean–I have done, but my chickens are not free range and not in close proximity to the beehive. I doubt that would matter, though. I googled a bit and found this blog: and this one: I bet they’d have the answers you need.

Adrean February 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thanks! I’ll check these out. I’ve don’t a few searches too and kept finding horror stories… maybe it’s more about finding the right link, not to mention that it is reassuring to hear of success straight from a keeper!

Best 🙂

Sallie August 30, 2014 at 6:31 am

Sherlock Holmes is smiling at all this bee talk. Bless all the Beekeepers. You are greatly needed and I will grow the flowers your bees like and keep them pesticide free. I will gladly buy the fruits of your labors. I do so love honey in my hot tea !!

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