I’m so excited for you to read today’s guest post! It was written by Gavin who is currently hosting a beehive and he’s written the pros and cons.
Hosting a beehive is like owning a condominium for impatient, workaholic interior designers. They improve your environment and find beauty in the things you take for granted – just stay out of their way.
My partner and I started hosting a beehive last year. Rural Quebec, replete with space, wildflowers, bushes and pollinating trees, seemed like an ideal location. The pandemic simply pushed to the forefront what had been a back-of-mind interest for years.
We found positive environmental, social and psychological advantages to having a hive. But, the experience has been balanced with the potential impacts and costs associated with our fuzzy little friends.
One quick caveat, I am only an enthusiastic amateur. There is a growing body of research on how to manage beehives, as well as their environmental advantages and consequences. I am sticking to my own experiences here, but you should consider thorough research before you start.
Like us, you may want to consider working with an apiary company first, particularly if they are willing to train you.
So, here are some things to consider if you want to start hosting a beehive.
Bees produce an enormous amount of honey
We use a fraction of what our bees produce, and that includes gifts to family and friends. This year, we expect up to 150 jars from two harvests. With that volume, we can donate honey to the local food bank, fundraise for our daughter’s school, build relationships with neighbours (free honey goes a long way to making friends) and recoup some of the costs by selling off the rest for personal use or gifts. You should definitely anticipate more than your own needs.
Related post: Everything you need to know about beeswax wraps
You will find yourself more aware of the world.
We have lived in a rural environment for decades. While I thought I was aware of my surroundings, I did not realize how little thought I gave to pollinators. You will definitely look at plant life differently.
For me, though, there was one specific and unexpected epiphany.
I hate my lawn. As in, full-on loathing.
I never noticed the insanity of lawns, at least to the extent that North American’s fuss over them, until I started looking at it from the perspective of pollinators. The amount of space given to grass, only to cut it down when it starts to sprout small flowering plants, is ludicrous.
I am not advocating you put a rusted El Camino in your front lawn and go for the unkempt, shabby, Texas Chainsaw Massacre look. Given the importance of pollinators, though, we really need to start thinking of grass as the accent, not the main course.
They pollinate a lot more than flowers
Honeybees cast a surprisingly wide net. Resilient, prototypically Canadian trees like Amur Maples and wild grapevines, greenery you would not associate with pollination, get the same annual makeover from our hive as wildflowers.
Bees are cool
They are fascinating, inventive, self-sufficient workaholics. Well, female bees are cool. A hive is one seriously matriarchal society.
It is hard work and is resource-intensive
We are working with a small local company as we learn the skills to manage the colony on our own. This list considers that support:
- Get the bees – you need to find a supplier and wait patiently to see if they actually accept their new home;
- Require several hundreds, potentially thousands, of dollars of equipment, including inspection tools, training and clothing;
- Consider adequate and consistent water, particularly if there are pools in the area (turns out, honeybees love pools);
- Consider how to winterize the hive;
- Monitor the Queen and overall colony health;
- Research and monitor for parasites;
- Open communication with your neighbors; and,
- Look out for bears (welcome to rural Quebec).
Not everyone loves honeybees
Between honey and the use of honeycombs, honeybees are enormously useful for humanity. That does not mean everyone wants an actual colony in the neighbourhood. At a minimum, you need to talk to your neighbours before you put in a hive.
In North America, like cats and horses, we tend to assume that honeybees are native to the continent. In fact, they came over with European settlers. They are, technically, an invasive species that compete with indigenous pollinators.
The expression, honeybees are the cows of the insect world, is not meant as a compliment. They are productive, but they take space and some environmentalists have raised concerns about the overuse of beehives.
What we have tried to do, particularly as our colony ignores several types of flowering trees and plants, is to plant a wide variety of pollinating plants that attract other pollinators. Consider, at least, creating space and opportunity for a variety of pollinators.
They will break your heart
Your colony will die, eventually. I have not had this happen yet, but I walked around my hive this spring, like an anxious prospective dad in a 1960’s waiting room. I know others that have lost their colony for no apparent reason and described it as a frustrating and depressing experience.
At the end of the day, a beehive is a serious investment. It has been fun, the honey has been amazing and we have been able to share the wealth. We are only two years in but we have no regrets.
It has also turned me into an irascible lawn-hater, but maybe that was only a matter of time.
You can find Gavin on social media here:
I learnt so many new things about bees by reading this post, I hope you did too! If you would like to guest post on my blog, please fill out my Google Docs form.
Best wishes, Cx
Ruth| Ruthiee loves Glamour says
Wow! This was such an informative post to be honest. This is the first time I’m hearing that someone hosted a beehive. I never had any idea that was possible. I loved reading this.
Ikr, it’s so cool 🙂
Thanks! They are quite a gang!
Rosie Ireland says
Beehives really fascinate me. I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into hosting one. This was a cool post to read because it’s so different to my usual blogging reading material!
Thanks Rosie! It was fun to write. Funny enough, it really made me consider the importance of letting space stay as wild as practically possible.
So true, thank you x
Our grandad had a few beehives in his allotment and, while we understand how important they are for the world, I am very scared of them…I know they are tiny and very much won’t hurt me unless I annoy them, but I am allergic to their stings so I just run off when I see one…I am trying my best to not do that anymore, but it will take a bit of time x
Thanks Simona! I have been stung a few times, but they are not all that aggressive given their numbers. I did talk to all my neighbors in advance, though. We would not have established a hive if we had any direct neighbor with allergies.
Aw no! x
I’ve always thought about having a beehive when I’m older! My neighbours did when I was little and I was always fascinated. They’d send us honey every now and again and it really did taste nicer than any other honey I’ve ever tasted. I never thought about the work that goes into it of course, or the fact that I’d be so sad when they die!
Thanks Vourneen! It has been fun, and the honey is really good, but I am bracing myself if they don’t survive a bad Canadian winter. It will feel like I am losing a beloved pet 🙁
Awww, that’s so nice! x
Seriah Sargenton says
I’m super terrified of bees so I cannot see myself having a beehive, but this was an interesting read.
Thanks Seriah. Nothing wrong with a bit of caution around bees! They never really bother us but I am cautious anytime I am near the hive. Do not want that gang as my enemy!
Great post! My partners dad has bees and it’s interesting hearing him tell us about them! I love getting honey from him, too.
Aw, that’s so cool! x
Thanks! Good to have connections in the beekeeping world 🙂
Her Digital Coffee says
Lovely post! I had a little laugh at “owning a condominium for impatient, workaholic interior designers.” They are workaholics! This contains a lot of really important and realistic information. Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you x
Thanks! I definitely mulled over the first line, glad you laughed!
Aw, what a neat post to read! I’ve seen lots of videos posted by beekeepers on Tiktok haha! It definitely looks like a lot of work so I totally believe it! Thanks for sharing x
Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com
Haha, so true x
This is a very balanced and informative post. My parents have bee hives and I listen to a podcast called Queen Bees about this subject.
Ooh, that’s cool, I’ll definitely check that out!
Thank you! I am glad you found it balanced. I will have to give that podcast a listen.
Kelly Diane says
This was really interesting to read. I’ve always liked the idea of keeping bees but I currently lack the space.
I feel you x
This is so cool! It would be so interesting to host a beehive. I had zero idea what went into doing that, though, so this was really interesting. If I ever lived in a rural area I think I’d like to give it a try.
How interesting! I have always been interested in honeybees and hives. Even with the cons, hosting a hive sounds like a very cool thing to do!
Thanks Sara! It is fun and fairly self-maintaining once the colony is settled. A lot of monitoring though. If you are in the UK, at least you don’t have the black bear problem 🙂
Me too! x
I think it is so important to educate yourself on having a beehive, they take a lot of care!
Thanks Amie. I agree!
I absolutely love the idea of hosting a beehive, I think it would definitely break my heart when they died though! x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
Hosting a beehive is such an amazing idea, I have never considered it before! Wonderful and Lovely Post dear! xoxo
Thank you for reading 🙂
I didn’t know how little I know about bees until I read your post Gavin. I like to educate myself on certain topics that I have basically no clue of. Thank you for this really informative and interesting post!
Thank you for reading <3
Eleanor Jones says
Wow this is so interesting Caroline, and so interesting to hear about bee-keeping from someone with the experience 🙂 I’m fascinated by bees, and this is a great post x
I agree! x
Molly @ Transatlantic Notes says
My mum’s neighbour keeps bees and makes/sells their own brand of honey out of their garden — the work they put into doing it always fascinated me. I really enjoyed reading about Gavin’s experiences of beekeeping here — we need to help save the bees! Thanks for the education!
Ah that’s so cool!
A great look at beekeeping. I would love to have the hives and bee able to eat our own honey. But like you said its a lot of work. I would say though the pros are more appealing and worthy
This was such an interesting post! Totally agree with the lawn thing too – I watched a youtube video that had a line about lawns originally being a way for rich people to say “look, we’re so rich that we can totally waste this productive space” and it totally skewed my opinion xx
Me too! x
Sophie | Love and Literature says
Such an interesting post, I really wanted to keep bees when I was younger hehe x
Thank you x
What an interesting post! I don’t know much about beekeeping or hives, so it was great to learn a little more from Gavin’s experience. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you x
Sarah Mark says
Wow! This is such an informative post. I used to work with someone who kept bees and I learnt so much from him. I would love to keep bees if I lived in the countryside.
Aw that’s cool x
Katy Stephenson says
We’re thinking of getting bees at my family friend’s farm so I’m definitely going to send them the link to this post!
Katy | http://www.katystephenson.com
Awww, that sounds so nice! Thank you 💗
Cristina Rosano says
Absolutely loved reading this! My grandpa used to have beehives and it brings back such great memories while we helped him harvest the honey during summer. I think bees are such interesting insects! x
Awww, that sounds so nice! xx