Among other homesteading hobbies, beekeeping is becoming more and more common. In the UK alone, members of the beekeeping association have risen by more than 15,000 people in the last ten years. Primarily concentrated in urban communities, the increase in beekeeping is a response to studies from 10 years ago that suggested a significant decrease in colony population.
Regardless of the reason, the boom is apparent no matter where you look. At more and more farmers’ markets and grocery stores, local honey is popping up.
Here are ten benefits of beekeeping that may be influencing the rise in popularity.
1. The Honey
The first and most apparent benefit of beekeeping is the honey you produce. Besides making the hobby profitable, honey is an excellent shelf-stable item to have in both your kitchen and medicine cabinet.
With its sweet taste & thick texture, honey is a great alternative to refined sugar. Because honey is produced from the pollen & nectar of a flower, it consists of fructose. Fructose is sweeter than common refined sugar, so we often have to use less to make food sweet.
In addition, both scientific studies and natural health providers have found that raw, unprocessed honey contains:
- Antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties
- Vitamins and minerals. Although the exact amount depends on where the honey is coming from, it often contains small amounts of niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc.
- Wound healing properties. Honey has been used to treat wounds and burns for thousands of years. Nowadays, we recognize that the healing power comes from its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Manuka honey, grown solely in New Zealand, is especially well-known for this ability.
- Anti-allergenic properties. Since bees are collecting pollen and nectar from your local plants to make honey, natural health providers argue that ingesting honey introduces us to small amounts of allergens at a time. Thus, eating honey may help us develop a natural immunization to seasonal allergies.
- Natural cough suppressant. Studies have even stated that it may be better than standard treatments for cough symptoms.
Since many of these properties are only found in local raw honey, there is a great demand for more local beekeepers. Many new beekeepers have sprung into action to meet this need for both their families and their community.
2. Other Harvestable Bee Products
Honey isn’t the only product you can harvest from your hive. While it’s by far the most common, many beekeepers also harvest beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, & pollen.
Here are the benefits from each of these products:
Beewax is arguably the second-most popular hive product to sell.
It’s commonly used as candlewax as a natural alternative to synthetic waxes on the market. Using beeswax for candles has many benefits, including:
- It’s environmentally friendly.
- It helps neutralize air pollutants.
- It has a natural, sweet aroma.
- It is dripless.
- It doesn’t contain toxic fragrances or colors.
It’s also popular to use beeswax in skincare. Again, as a natural alternative to many synthetic chemicals in today’s cosmetics, it provides many natural benefits. Some of those include:
- It’s breathable. Beeswax blocks skin irritants while allowing the skin to breathe.
- It contains vitamin A, which protects the skin from environmental irritants.
- It helps retain water.
- It’s hypoallergenic.
- It has a naturally sweet, subtle fragrance.
Propolis is a glue-like substance bees produce to patch up holes and insecurities in their hive. It’s mainly composed of resin, wax, essential oils, and pollen.
Like many other hive products, propolis has been used for thousands of years. Usually found in supplements or medicinal ointments and creams, propolis has many uses.
Most commonly, it’s used for bacterial infections, acne, burns, colds & cold sores, giardiasis, inflammation, influenza, and peptic ulcer disease.
Bees produce royal jelly exclusively for the queen bee and queen bee larvae. Even though female bee larvae are identical initially, a royal jelly diet biologically changes the larvae chosen to become queen
If it’s fit for a queen, it must have some beneficial properties. Royal jelly has been shown to contain a higher concentration of proteins, carbs, lipids, and salts than regular honey and can help with menopause symptoms, PMS, wounds, and type 2 diabetes.
Although not many studies have been done on bee pollen, natural health providers suggest that it may be a great way to fight seasonal allergies. In addition, it is rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids.
However, because of its high potency, it’s suggested to consult your health provider before trying it out.
3. Beekeeping is a Gratifying Hobby
First, beekeeping comes with a steep learning curve. This alone makes the hobby gratifying because success feels hard-earned. After the roller coaster of a beekeeper’s first year, the trials only become easier and easier to overcome.
Second, beekeeping does not take much time. Since you only have to check on your bees around once a week, the time-to-result ratio is relatively small. Compared to a lot of other hobbies, this is not a lot of time at all. For many beekeepers, this is what sets this hobby apart from others.
Third, beekeepers can see the success of their hive in real-time. Honey bees only live between 4-6 weeks, making the growth of your hive visible. From week to week and month to month, you’re able to see the success of your hives, which can feel pretty satisfying.
Lastly, within that steep learning curve of beekeeping, you are not only learning about bees. Being outside, you’ll get the ability to learn more about your local flora and fauna and your local community.
4. Bees Can Provide Side- or Full-Income
One of the benefits of beekeeping for some people is income. A strong bee colony can produce up to 60-80 pounds of harvestable honey, which adds up to a lot of dough. More than honey, however, you can also make money through other products and through leasing your bees for pollination.
Honey is the most popular product to harvest from a hive. A single, strong hive, depending on price, can make anywhere between $600-$1600 in a year. In addition, setting up traps allows a beekeeper to also harvest bee pollen and propolis. Since these products are also in high demand, you can make more money by offering these at your local farmers’ market or co-op.
Beeswax is another possibility for harvestable products but can only be harvested in bulk. Beeswax is the substance that makes up honeycombs. Honey harvesting can be done in several ways, but many of these ways end up re-using the combs for the following year. Since bees work rigorously to produce these combs, recycling them makes the most sense economically.
However, if you plan to have more than a hundred hives, harvesting wax can start to make financial sense. Since wax is really light, you’ll need to harvest a lot to make products. That being said, both cosmetic companies and aromatherapy companies have a large demand for beeswax.
The last significant way to make money from your hive is by offering them as a pollination service. Many large-scale farms need pollination services and will pay beekeepers to bring their bees to their farms for the season. If you live in an agricultural area, this is a great opportunity.
5. Pollinators Help the Environment
It’s not a secret that bees, among other pollinators, have suffered significant population declines due to conventional pesticides, climate change, and land development. In combination with high amounts of parasites and pathogens, these threats have caused honey bee populations to decline dramatically.
Pollinator population decline is a problem for the environment because of the ecological importance of these creatures. As somewhere between 75-95% of all flowering plants on earth rely on pollinators to bloom, their absence is significant. In addition, they provide pollination for 35% of the world’s crop production.
Depending upon where you live and what type of bees you have, honey bees are a natural part of the ecosystem in some world regions. Like any other species, they provide unique attributes to this system that aren’t replaceable by other creatures.
However, even though honey bees are helpful for the plants, it’s also important to note that they can harm native pollinators. If flowers are scarce, honey bees can increase competition among native pollinators, who also suffer from a population decline. If you plan to have a plethora of bees, it’s key to provide enough forage for your bees and native pollinators.
In addition, you can provide housing and other resources for native pollinators that will decrease the stress of competition.
6. Hands-on Learning
Beekeeping is a bookworm’s heaven. Being a successful beekeeper means knowing your bees and your business well. Thus, beekeeping allows you to learn more about insects, biology, botany, & business.
Being able to keep bees successfully requires in-depth knowledge of their biological processes. Since bee biology is unique from other insects, learning about their sexual reproduction, behavior, anatomy, and physiology is needed. This alone is an in-depth study, so learners will find it one of the benefits of beekeeping.
Not only will you get the chance to learn about bee biology, but you’ll also have the chance to study plants.
Since bee’s food depends solely on plants (unless you’re dealing with vulture bees), having in-depth botany knowledge will be really helpful. You’ll mainly get the chance to learn about plant growth, blooming patterns, and what flowers are attractive to bees – but you can study much more in-depth if you desire.
If you plan to sell your honey to others, you will also get the opportunity to learn about business practices. Learning about profitability, marketing, communication, and customer service will help you set up your beekeeping business as a long-lasting, sustainable practice.
7. Sense of Community
Having a sense of community is important for our physical and mental health. It allows us to create social connections, adapt to problems together, and maintain good health. However, a community can be hard to find nowadays. One of the benefits of beekeeping is that it is an easy way to find community. There are various outlets within beekeeping to find community, making this one of the best benefits of beekeeping.
The easiest way to find community via this hobby is through the beekeeping association. The American Beekeeping Association has groups in a plethora of states and is easy to join. Through this association, you can access education programs, volunteer opportunities, conference invitations, and newsletters that tie you into local and current bee affairs.
Finding a local beekeeping group through the abundance of social media pages is another way to find community. These groups often share their tips and tricks for beekeeping and have meet-ups with one another. In addition, it is a great way to find used and cheap tools for starting up your first hive.
Another way to find community through beekeeping is by joining your local food system. Farmers’ markets alone have grown by 76 percent since 2008 in the United States. Through farmers’ markets, local food co-ops, and CSA programs, you can meet many people in your community. Joining your local food system can also help you gain relationships with customers that will help propel your beekeeping career.
Lastly, some cities have community apiaries. These apiaries offer new beekeepers space for their hive while giving beekeepers a chance to meet each other, give each other tips, and obtain training and hive management support.
8. Beekeeping is a Relaxing Hobby
Beekeeping has actually been called “beekeeping therapy” for its relaxing and stress-reducing attributes. Like gardening, farming, and many other outdoor hobbies/careers, beekeeping has similar, soothing effects on people.
First, it’s very focus-intensive. As you inspect your hive or harvest honey, you must be fully focused to avoid hurting the bees or yourself. This in and of itself is a great way to reduce stress, as our minds have to stop racing to focus on the task at hand.
In addition, since hive inspections and honey harvesting require manual labor, beekeeping is a great way to release endorphins. Just like going to the gym or going for a run, any manual labor that requires us to exert our bodies makes us release endorphins and makes us feel better.
Multiple studies have pointed to the benefits nature has on our mental health. Once a week, you get the opportunity to soak up the sun’s rays while making sure your bees are thriving. In addition, beekeeping forces you to be outside more than you naturally would be. That, combined with the Vitamin D provided by the sun, makes beekeeping beneficial for our mental health.
9. Bees Help Your Garden Thrive
If you’re a gardener, this might be the most significant benefit of beekeeping. Many of our common garden crops require pollination, including apricots, apples, figs, grapes, melons, peaches, cherries, pears, pumpkins, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, peppermint, and tomatoes.
One hive alone can dramatically change the success of our garden. Additionally, since bees can fly up to 5 miles away from the hive, your neighbors will be grateful for the beautification of their spaces as well (given they aren’t allergic).
10. Beekeeping is Empowering
All in all, one of the best benefits of beekeeping is how empowering it is. From learning a plethora of subjects to successfully starting your own business, there are many aspects of beekeeping that make people feel empowered.
First off, learning all of the subjects needed to be a successful beekeeper alone is a feat. From biology to business, there are so many intricate things to know about your hive. It’s also ever-changing, which makes you learn more and more throughout the seasons. After a couple of years in, the accomplishment of learning everything is really empowering.
Add in that you started a whole living community from scratch and the empowerment multiples. Not only that, but beekeeping enables you to gain a unique community of your own. Both of these have positive attributes for our self-respect and can feel quite accomplishing.
Lastly, since many people experience a fear of bees, beekeeping allows us to overcome this fear. Overcoming fears is quite an accomplishment, which is why it feels so empowering.
Beekeeping has seen a massive increase in the last decade. The reason for this increase is that beekeeping provides a multitude of benefits. The top ten benefits of beekeeping are:
- The honey
- The other harvestable products
- It’s a gratifying hobby.
- Beekeeping can provide a side-or full income.
- Bees can help the environment.
- It’s a hands-on learning experience.
- You can gain a sense of community.
- It’s a relaxing hobby.
- Bees can help your garden thrive.
- It’s an empowering hobby.
With all of the benefits combined, it’s easy to see why more and more people are beginning to keep bees as a hobby or career.