What is involved in becoming a Beekeeper?

It is very important that you read the following material so that you are best informed in making the decision to start keeping honeybees. 


We have put together the following information to give you a basic idea of the course along with details on what beekeeping entails.  

This message is not to discourage you from beekeeping but to provide a realistic view of the commitment required to successfully keep bees. 


 1. Beekeeping requires adult participation.  Beekeeping requires a determination to succeed, some heavy lifting, the occasionally working in less-than-desirable conditions, the probability of somewhat painful stings (especially as you are learning), and year-round management.  We encourage the engaging and educating children. However, teenagers and children are often not successful without adult guidance and perseverance, therefore 1 adult family member must attend the course instruction and be participatory in the beekeeping venture.


 2. Time commitment required. Beekeeping is for folks who have both the time and the desire to devote to the bees.  If you have very little free time now then this venture may not be right for you to commit to at this time.  Starting out, you should plan to spend 1-2 hours per hive, every week during April through October.   November through March requires fewer visits, but those visits are very important for evaluation of your colony’s health.


 3. Regular care and attention is required.   As evidenced by the news of declining honeybee populations over the last 15 or so years, honeybees are under significant pressure from parasites, disease, environmental pollution and chemicals.  Neglect or poor colony management, and a lack of adequate food sources contribute to colony demise as well.  Successful beekeeping today requires much more knowledge and attention to the bees than ever before.  Therefore, you cannot simply put bees in your yard and watch them from a distance, while still expecting them to survive and provide you a bounty of honey.  Bees are livestock that depend on your regular care and support for survival.  Successful beekeepers need a good understanding of the biology of the bees and their parasites, the skills to recognize and manage disease, and a willingness to support the colonies by treatment and feeding when necessary.  Failure to understand and help the bees with these stresses will result in colony death, beekeeper frustration, and loss of your investment.  


4. Beekeeping and HOA restrictions.  In the State of Virginia, bees kept in hives are classified as livestock.  If you have an HOA or other property restrictions, investigate the regulations before committing to beekeeping.  We do not recommend that beginning beekeepers keep bees on another’s property during their first year. In most cases, the beekeeper will not visit and take care of them as often as necessary. This results in poor colony survival rates, expense and frustration.


5. Beekeeping start-up costs. Beekeeping today involves real expense.  Should you choose to keep bees, the woodenware (the hive and associated components) will cost $200-$350 per colony depending on your ability to construct it.  You will also need personal protective equipment and tools, which can run $75 – $200 per person.  Finally, you will have to purchase the bees to start your colony costing approximately $120 – $200 per colony.  Start-up can easily be over $1000 to setup a two-colony bee yard in the first year, more if you live in an area where you have to protect your colonies from bears or put up other barriers to protect people and bees. 


6. Beginning Beekeeping Course time commitment. This course consists of seven weekly classes that will go from 2 to 8 hours each.  There are recommend books, as well as other (video/books) materials for your introduction to the new “language” of beekeeping. Every effort should be giving to give you all the information you need to be successful. It is incumbent upon you to attend all the classes, study the material, and ask questions so that we can help you learn the material. We encourage you to clear your calendar, so you do not miss any classes. 


7. Continuing education and mentoring.  Continuing education is very important once you get started.  a local bee group/club’s monthly continuing education meetings are to provide you with the support and tools you need to be successful.  Additionally, the VSBA offers bi-annual meetings covering a variety of beekeeping topics. It is strongly suggested that you have a mentor to help you during your first year of beekeeping. The mentor can answer questions or perhaps work with you in your hives as an introduction to the live colony.  The mentor is there to help guide you through your first year.  It will be up to you to manage the interaction with your mentor.