The Saint John River Valley in Atlantic Canada is a peaceful place, perfect for those wishing to escape the rat race. It is also the home of many homesteaders who take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere to nurture their families, grow their own foods, raise some livestock, and even tend a few beehives. David Noble, husband, father, and farmer, decided to add apiarist to his many titles a few years ago. I was blessed to get to chat with David about the challenges and rewards of beekeeping.
I had the opportunity to talk with a local beekeeper who was moving west and selling his equipment. That was four or five years ago. It sounded really interesting and I thought it would be a lot of fun. Kendra [David’s wife] wanted us to have our own honey, and so that’s why we got started.
Keeping bees is a decision motivated by many reasons. Some do it simply for the extra honey. Others are interested in the business side of things, and plan to sell honey, comb, and wax at farmers’ markets. Still others tend hives in order to have the bees pollinate their gardens and orchards, thus enjoying a better harvest. There are others who do it for environmental reasons, to help counteract the decline of bee numbers due to agricultural sprays and a limited bee food supply due to mass farming. David’s prime reason was personal, although he did consider going into business at one point in his journey.
At first it was just a brain wave. I thought beekeeping would be fun, so I just went ahead and did it. About a year and a half ago the government had an incentive program for beekeepers. I thought about increasing my number of hives and getting into it as a business, but decided against it. Keeping bees is like farming, only more unpredictable! With farming, you’re at mercy of the weather and market prices. With bees there’s that, but there’s also that the bees have their own minds! They do what they want! With a family to feed, the outcome of beekeeping as a business was too unpredictable. I decided to just stay with a few hives for our own personal use. I keep one for my neighbor, too. That’s as much as I can handle with my day job. I like it this way. It’s kept the fun in it. I figure if I’m going to do it, I want to do it the best I can and enjoy it, too.
No doubt beekeeping is an interesting and fun hobby. There are many other positives to having a home apiary, though.
My apple trees are just loaded! I have a good garden every year, too. My neighbors tell me they see our bees in their flowers and on their vegetable blossoms. They’re benefiting from the bees, too. I’m enjoying a return on my investment now, also. It was costly to get set up, but now that I’ve got a few years under my belt, I’m making a profit in honey. That’s always nice!
Positives, yes, and challenges, too!
I didn’t expect to be stung so much! If you don’t want to be stung, don’t be a beekeeper! That’s just part of it, though. The beekeepers I’ve talked to seem to think their bees are really docile and gentle, but not mine. It might be the breed. Spring and harvest time is when they get especially moody. I’ve had a hard time with swarming, too. You learn more every year, though, and I’ve learned to keep one step ahead of them to help prevent them from swarming.
As with anything, experience is the best teacher. David was able to share some advice for beginning beekeepers.
If there’s one book you read, let it be Beekeeping for Dummies. That book has everything you need to know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, too. Talk to other beekeepers who have been doing it for a long time. The hive inspector is a great resource, too. Most of all, don’t get discouraged. Have fun with it, learn a lot, and just ride the wave!