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eekeeping (also know as apiculture) is a great way to generate honey for the family, but once you're into it, you will find that it can also be a lucrative money maker. With health issues becoming more important to people these days, honey is often used as a substitute for sugar-based foods. The by-products of beekeeping - wax and other bee products - are also such useful items, that they're easily saleable, turning your beekeeping hobby into a full-time business.
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Having some land or open space for you to carry out your beekeeping business is great but it is not a critical requirement to being a successful (and profitable) beekeeper. Hives can be kept in a small garden or on a townhouse roof, but before you do anything though, you will want to consider getting in touch with your local business development authorities and enquire about the licensing and permits required. Some local authorities forbid the practice, while others positively encourage bees for their enormous benefits to the community. Neighbours are also an issue. Take all necessary precautions to avoid any untoward incidences or reaction from your neighbours. Bees need to be kept in areas with plenty of nectar-producing plants, like clover and other meadow flowers. The best place is close to where oilseed rape is grown. This is a particular favourite of bees who will travel up to four miles to collect the nectar. Rape nectar produces high yields of honey and one can produce 300 pounds of honey in a single season. Without rape, 30 - 40 pounds is more realistic.
It's important to learn the basics of beekeeping first. You can do this by learning from experienced beekeepers and from books. There are also video tutorials that give you a basic run-down of what you need to do to get started. If you are anywhere near a beekeeper society, they're really wonderful to join, learn and get tips from experienced beekeepers. A minimum of equipment is needed for operating one or two hives. You'll need bees, of course, as well as a hive, a hive tool for opening and inspecting the hive, some form of protective clothing for you, and a smoke box. Smoke has a calming effect on bees and a light puff of smoke at the entrance hole calms the bees and makes inspecting easier. Most equipment can be purchased inexpensively, even second-hand, through specialist suppliers listed later and via most local beekeeping associations.
Beekeeping means managing the hive in a way that maximises honey production. It also involves knowing and understanding your little buzzy friends, what they need, and what intervention (if any) that they will and will not tolerate from you. Like keeping any other animal, beekeeping requires regular care, maintenace, skill, time and knowledge coupled with patience gained from experience. Beekeeping isn't a business that you can rush. It's good to remember that bees are wild creatures, not domesticated animals. Bees may work for man and may even work with man, but they don't need humans. They will only remain in a hive while it suits them. A beekeeper's role is to make sure that the hive suits them! As such, you will need to inspect the hive regularly to make sure all is well. "Well" means that the queen is laying, the worker bees are busy collecting nectar and pollen and that there are not signs of distress among the bees.
Honey can be sold direct to consumers or through shops, supermarkets, markets, even at craft and country fairs. You could even set up a website to sell your honey, shipping them out to your customers as soon as they make payment online. You can promote your honey by participating in food events, cooking demonstrations and even donating your honey for charitable events.
Money can also be made from other bee products like propolis, pollen, royal jelly and beeswax. There are a wide range of books that can teach you how. Even the wax and damaged combs shouldn't be discarded. These can be melted down and reused in your own hive or sold to people who use wax to manufacture foundation cream, polishes, cosmetics, candles and ornamental plaques. So as you can see, beekeeping is an activity that not only helps the environment, but also keeps you buzzing with money!