In some ways beekeeping is like parenting, honeybees don't just look after themselves so you really should only have as many hives as you can look after responsibly.
Once the decision has been made to keep bees, the beekeeper has a legal and moral obligation to maintain the bees in a healthy state and in such a way that they do not become a nuisance to other people.
Whether for pleasure or for profit, it’s essential that beekeepers understand their obligations before investing in hundreds of dollars of equipment and supplies.
Take the following factors into consideration to ensure sweet success:
Hive Inspections - Legal Obligations
Beekeeping in Australia is legislated by your local state or territory. Each state or territory has their own Code of Conduct or Code of Practice which details the legislation applying to beekeepers and the practice of beekeeping.
The Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice (the Code) has been developed in consultation with beekeepers and governments to provide a framework for Australian beekeepers to use best-practice biosecurity measures. As a minimum, the Code requires beekeepers to inspect their hives at least twice per year for disease and pests and keep accurate records of their finding. This is the minimum requirement for good bee husbandry and beekeepers are encouraged to inspect more frequently.
As a minimum, the Code requires beekeepers to inspect their hives at least twice per year for disease and pests and keep accurate records of their finding.
Swarm prevention only takes a few minutes each week
The code also requires beekeepers to manage colonies to prevent or minimise swarming.
Swarming is the process by which a new colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In theory bees can swarm at any stage of the year but the swarming urge is strongest during sprng and summer. The best practice is to inspect the hives during swarm season every seven to ten days, to determine whether preventive steps need to be undertaken to prevent swarming. This provides enough time to act if the bees have started queen cells since the previous inspection.
Hive inspections should not be an onerous task, once you know what you are looking for a hive inspection should be a quick simple task. Many beekeepers enjoy the process of opening their hives and spend considerable time observing their bees and learning during their first years.
Commercial operators can inspect a hive in minutes but as a beginner 15-30 minutes for each inspection is realistic.
Before you purchase your colony, you’ll need to setup and prepare the hive. Hives consist of several pieces, including frames, supers (boxes), a hive base, and the lid. There is usually some assembly required, so take that into account when creating your timeline.
Companies like The Bee Store have everything you need to create your hive.
The sweetest part of beekeeping is getting seemingly endless honey, but extracting it from the hive does take time, depending on the equipment. If you are using a Flow Hive then the extraction time will be limited to turning the key and walking away.
If you are extracting by uncapping and spinning, as a general guide uncapping a single box of frames by hand and extracting should take no longer than an hour or two for a beginner. Using automated uncapping or extracting equipment will significantly reduce this time.
Can You Devote Enough Time to Your Bees?
Compared to many hobbies, beekeeping requires minimal time commitment. Many beekeepers visit their hives weekly during season, checking on the health of the queen (based on her egg-laying habits) and troubleshooting for mites and diseases. More time-consuming is educating yourself about bees, so you'll learn to recognize problems and anticipate maintenance activities. Most hobby beekeepers get into beekeeping as they are interested in bees so will happily do this and enjoy the process.
In total, as an estimate you’ll need to spend a minimum of 15-30 hours each year ensuring you’re meeting your bees’ needs. Ensuring there is a readily available food source, maintaining the hives, doing inspections for potential diseases, and extracting honey can quickly add up.
The Bee Store makes it easy to get started with beekeeping, save time with a beehive kit and other tools of the trade!