Crafts-Hobbies Vivian | 25 Mar 2011 08:00 am

Beekeeping For Honey, Money, and Fun

For most of us, modern life has evolved far away from our roots in nature. Most of us live and work in a man-made, artificial environment. Very few of us have the advantage of working in a natural setting, and few of us even have the privilege of communing with nature on a regular basis.

And yet, in spite of the barriers of modern civilization, which reduce our contact with the natural world, we all recognize the importance of nature. For the natural world is the bedrock upon which our artificial world of modern civilization rests. Though we may exist in an entirely artificial environment – leaving our air-conditioned homes to travel in air-conditioned vehicles to and from our workplace cubicle – we are just as dependent upon the workings of nature as a 17th century farmer who had to sweat in the sun and grub in the dirt for his living.

For many of us, finding a way of reconnecting with nature provides a counterweight to the artificiality of modern life, giving a balance to our lives that seems missing without some means of communing with nature. Gardening and camping are examples of popular activities that provide an interface with nature. Another such activity that unfortunately is often overlooked is beekeeping.

Beekeeping provides an intimate connection with nature. Watching your bees as they explode in population in the spring as they prepare for the summer’s honey production, and then winding down in the fall, ready to face the winter with the stores they’ve industriously accrued, is endlessly fascinating, no matter how many times you’ve watched the cycle repeated. And fortunately, it’s not necessary to live in the country to enjoy the hobby of beekeeping. Hundreds of hives are kept on the balconies and rooftops of most cities; there are even professional beekeepers whose hives are all located within the confines of a city.

Of course, the production of honey is one of the major benefits of beekeeping. In most seasons, a well-managed hive will produce enough honey to allow its keeper to share in the bounty and still leave the hive plenty for winter stores. And the honey that the hobbyist beekeeper can produce is nothing like the over processed and over filtered substance sold as honey at most supermarkets. Those who have never tasted pure, unprocessed honey straight from the comb (or even better, still in the comb), will be truly delighted at their first taste of honey in its natural state. There is usually quite a demand for raw, local honey, providing a ready market for any beekeeper that wishes to expand the hobby into a part-time business.

But there is more to beekeeping than the benefits that accrue directly to the beekeeper. Beekeepers – whether professionals with thousands of hives, or hobbyists with only a hive or two – also provide a critically valuable service to society. For a variety of reasons, some of which are not completely understood, feral, or wild honeybee colonies have been dying out in recent years, making beekeepers very important people. Agriculture is highly dependent upon the pollination provided by honeybees, with about a third of the food humans consume requiring pollination by bees. If the bees disappear, so does that food, making every honeybee colony – and every beekeeper – a valuable resource.

Perhaps more than any other single activity or hobby, beekeeping offers an endlessly fascinating exposure to the workings of nature. And when considering the other benefits of beekeeping: the opportunity to produce nature’s purest and most delectable sweet, the chance to profit from the pastime for those who wish, and the important contribution made to society by those who care for such an important insect, it’s truly a shame that more people don’t pursue the intriguing hobby of beekeeping.

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