A hobby? Money-saver? Money-maker?


by Debra Karplus

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Your family enjoys using honey as a sweetener, but according to an FDA report in the Huffington Post on November 11, 2012, much of the supermarket honey that is sold is not really honey at all, as proven by the lack of pollen in its contents. At about $6 for 22 ounces of store-bought "honey," you might as well use sugar as a sweetener. And if you keep up with any of the medical reports, there is absolutely nothing inherently good about using sugar is your diet; heavy sugar usage has been liked to numerous diseases. But if you already enjoy the self-sufficiency and other benefits of a backyard garden, you might want to take it to the next step and become a home beekeeper.

Before you get too excited about the idea of raising bees and producing honey on your property, there are a few important things you want to think about. First, call your city officials or search online to see if there are any specific municipal regulations regarding beekeeping at home. Also, if someone in your family is allergic to bee stings, you might want to confer with your physician about the safety of having honey bees in your yard.

Search online "beekeeping at home," and you'll discover many websites that can guide you as you embark on this new and exciting adventure, such as BeeCulture.com, ABFNet.org, or Beesource.com. As an alternative try any of the university Cooperative Extension websites. Possibly you can register for a beginner's class in beekeeping to learn the essentials. The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension periodically offers these basic classes for aspiring beekeepers.

There are also state associations that have websites specific to making honey at home, such as the Illinois State Beekeepers Association. They can guide you toward the best pollinator-friendly plants like sunflower, clover, or safflower that you should put in your yard to attract the bees that will ultimately make the honey.

These are just a few of many informative resources that can help you to determine what honey yield you can expect from your backyard apiary. According to EndTimesReport.com, one average hive can yield 40 to 45 pounds of honey each year, though there have been world records set for many times more! If you start your hives in the spring, you can expect to have honey by fall.

Your start-up costs will include bees, frames, hives, a few beekeeping tools, protective clothing, containers to put the honey in, and possibly labels with type of honey (determined by the type of flower that it was pollinated from) and the date. There will be some ongoing expenses as well. According to BackYardHive.com, a package of bees costs between $40 and $80. Hives can be purchase from numerous sources online for under $300. For about $250, you can purchase them from Amazon.

Protective garments are essential. Look online for choices. From Amazon.com, for about $120, you can purchase a suit, helmet, and gloves specifically for home beekeeping. Jars for your newly produced honey cost about $14 for 24 eight-ounce containers with lids.

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In terms of the financial aspect of beekeeping at home, you should think about why you actually want to make honey since there are significant start-up costs to this activity as well as yearly costs to keep it going. If you simply desire to embark on a new hobby, then your expenses to get started in beekeeping are no different than any other hobby like quilting or oil painting.

If you eat enough honey at home and also plan to give your honey as hospitality gifts or holiday treasures, then go for it. Or maybe you want to aim even higher and ultimately plan to sell your honey at your local or out-of-town farmers market. Check out what that involves in terms of health department requirements and time before you reserve a booth and buy yourself a tent for weekly farmers market selling.

Home beekeeping can be a very rewarding and fun hobby for family members of all ages. It's a fabulous ongoing science lesson for even your youngest child. Carefully put some time into planning and research before you delve into the world of beekeeping and become the neighborhood apiarist.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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