Starting beekeeping as a backyard hobbyist is quite rewarding, says Gabriela Bratkovics. There are a number of methods of raising bees and the rewards are amazing, she explains. The products you’ll get from raising the bees will vary, however. This all depends on the type of bees you choose and how they are harvested each year. Here, Gabriela Bratkovics talks about some things you’ll want to look for when choosing which honeybees to get for your backyard hive.
There are many bees to choose from, says Gabriela Bratkovics. Some experts say there are seven biological families of bees with nearly 20,000 species. However, only about seven species are popular with beekeepers in the United States, with the most popular being the Western honeybee.
If you’re keeping bees because of the honey and byproducts, you’ll want to make sure you get bees that make honey, says Gabriela Bratkovics. Not every bee makes enough honey to harvest, she adds.
Honey is a natural sweetener that is a byproduct of the beekeeping industry and comes in several varieties that depend on the biochemical composition, nectar source, and processing methods, she says. The type of bee you choose also reflects the type of honey you’ll get, she says, and not all honey tastes the same. Based on its texture, honey can come unprocessed as with honeycomb or as a liquid, granulated, chunked or creamed. The flowers that the bees pollinate also have an effect on the taste. A lot of it depends on where you live, too, since some bees do better in different climates.
If you want bees just for the pollination they’ll provide your garden or farm, you might want a different type of bee, she says. While all bees have different traits, you’ll choose the traits that are most important to you.
There is not one right answer, Gabriela Bratkovics says. For example, some bees are more prone to mites than other bees. Some bees have longer proboscis (tongues) and can reach more flowers than other bees. Some bees are gentler than others while others are more prone to swarming, and some bees are more winter hardy than others. There are many choices and it just depends on what your goals are, she explains.
When you go to buy your queen bee, says Gabriela Bratkovics, you’ll be able to do more research based on what the seller has available. They should be able to educate you further on the specific types of bees they have and the pros and cons of each. I also recommend looking into some online courses* about beekeeping or getting an encyclopedia that tells you everything you’ll need to know. Lastly, your local cooperative should be able to direct you to someone to ask about specific bees for your area.