A local Denver community marketplace near me recently hosted an introductory beekeeping class given by Colin Mann from Vine Street Farms, which provides mentoring and beekeeping consulting service in my area.
As I had been toying with the idea of becoming a backyard beekeeper, my family & I decided to make a night of it, and went to enjoy some pizza, beverage, and bees. I loved the idea of helping to provide for the needs of our honeybee neighbors and helping their population grow and thrive. And of course, having our own local honey to harvest and share with friends would be just a bonus.
It's a juggling act
I had done my research, and much of what was discussed, I felt I had a good handle on. After all, I’d read The Beekeeper’s Bible. What I hadn’t counted on was how much work was involved in keeping bees. Work AND kids AND dogs AND house AND bees...having one more job to do just wasn’t in the books for our family.
Which got me thinking...I was just worried about the work 1-2 hives would take. How much time and labor is involved in taking care of 100 hives… or 1000 or more?
What to consider
Well, according to Jamie Ellis’s article in the American Bee Journal, the answer depends on several factors: what beekeeping goals you have, what your available resources are, your local climate, how many folks are helping manage the hives, AND, most importantly, how many colonies you have.
So many jobs to do: colony size needs to be managed, hive splits need to be made, and more supers need to be added. Pests & diseases must be prevented or treated. Is the queen in good shape? Do the bees need to be fed? Have they made enough honey to last the winter?
It takes as much as 2700-3900 hours of work a year to manage 1000 hives.
Most commercial beekeeping operations’ main source of revenue nowadays is in the pollination business. With this comes an even greater amount of labor, as well as drive time (which I sure as heck would consider labor!).
So, hat’s off to the American beekeeper! They are some hardworking folks, doing their part in keeping a large part of the nation’s pollinators thriving, and trying to earn a living while doing so.