You’ve been learning about beekeeping and you’re considering starting a hive. But before you do, you’ll want to consider how much time beekeeping takes. Like any hobby, beekeeping requires time commitment if you want to be successful.
Expect to spend more time during your first year because you’ll need to do your research, obtain your equipment, and install your bees. During your first year, you may attend local beekeeping meetings and do additional research to troubleshooting any issues that arise with your hive. If you’re considering beekeeping, chances are, you already have a passion for it. The more you effort you put into bees, the more you’ll get out of them. Investing in the time to learn how to effectively care for bees can dramatically increase honey production for that year. Bees are self-sufficient, but you can invest as much time in them as you want.
That’s why so many people love beekeeping!
What Is The Time Commitment For Beekeeping?
In short, expect to spend 15 to 30 hours during your first year to care for one hive. The more hives you have, the more time you’ll spend on beekeeping. However, that does not mean that you should expect to spend 15 to 30 hours a year per hive. The time to hive ratio decreases a little.
Beekeeping is a seasonal hobby. You’ll be primarily occupied during the spring while little direct work to do in the winter. Once you are familiar with beekeeping, expect to invest anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes per hive per week in the spring. The minimum time required depends on how many hives you have and how thorough you plan to be during your inspections.
This is not a time limit. If you want to spend more time focusing on beekeeping, you certainly can. Although you may not always need to inspect your hive, you can join a local beekeeping club. It’s highly recommended that new beekeepers connect with other local beekeepers who have experience. The best way to learn about beekeeping is to work with someone with experience. Having a resource to turn to when you have questions gives your bees a stronger likelihood to thrive.
What Day-To-Day Tasks Can I Expect To Do As A Beekeeper?
At first glance, it would seem like a hobbyist beekeeper, with one or two hives in their backyard, would only need to install bees and occasionally check the hive to ensure honey production is progressing. However, beekeeping is not a passive hobby.
Diseases and parasites have become such a big problem that beekeepers have to actively help bees fight them off. You cannot leave a beehive to fend for itself. For new beekeepers, this means they will need to open their hives routinely and look for any signs of trouble. If any diseases or parasites are present, beekeepers may need to clean the hive, add traps or barriers, and even give chemically treatments to extinguish any threats.
Spring will be your busiest time of the year as a beekeeper. If it’s your first year, this is the time when you introduce your bees to the hive. You’ll need to feed them for the first few weeks to help them adjust. After that, every spring you will perform routine inspections.
When temperatures hit 50°F (10°C) in the late spring, bees will begin to exit the hive to forage. This is the time to begin opening the hive once every one to two weeks for inspections. Typically, beekeeping allows flexibility on when you perform your tasks. In most circumstances, you can choose to only work on the weekends. However, some tasks have to be completed at an exact day or time of the day. For example, if you want to introduce a new queen, you will need to release her from her cage 48 hours after adding her to the hive.
Summer is another busy time for beekeepers. You’ll still perform weekly (or bi-weekly) inspections. At this point, you’ll probably have to perform some hive maintenance. During your inspections, you should always keep an eye out for how full the honeycombs are getting so you’ll know when to harvest honey.
Fall is a fun time for beekeepers. I’d go so far as to say that it’s the highlight of the year. Now is the time to harvest honey and enjoy some time off! Be sure to make any hive repairs before the weather gets too cold and begin preparing your bees for the winter months.
The hives are wrapped up and the bees are staying warm inside. Winter is the time to pick up a few good books and learn more about beekeeping. The learning never stops so put this downtime to use and gain more knowledge. You’ll need to check on your hive now and then and make sure it doesn’t need any repairs. Also, ensure your bees have enough food supply. You may need to supply supplemental food if they are running out of honey. If you plan to expand, remember to order more bees during the winter for the next spring.
How Important Is Research?
If you want a hobby that does not require constant research, beekeeping is not right for you. I’ve already mentioned that you should expect to spend a minimum of 15 to 30 hours a year tending to a beehive. Successful beekeepers spend even more time doing research. Especially in the beginning, prepare to spend several hours to research how to perform one task. You need to account for the time you will spend doing research. It takes time to learn about bees. Even experienced beekeepers don’t know it all. When a new problem arises, they still need to do their research, read books, or even reach out to other beekeepers for help.
Is Beekeeping Right For Me?
If you want a hobby that you can choose not to do when you don’t feel like it, beekeeping is not right for you. At a minimum, you will need to provide space and hive for bees, extra food during the winter or nectar dearth, and inspect for and treat diseases. Having a beehive is like having a pet. It’s a recurring responsibility that requires direct effort on your part.
If you think you can get away with having one, cute little hive in the corner of your yard, think again. If you want to keep your bees happy, you’ll soon have to have more hives. A strong have has thousands of bees and that can lead to bee swarms.
Bees swarm in the spring when a hive is becoming overcrowded. As a beekeeper, you need to be able to identify and stop swarming before it happens so you don’t lose all of your bees. See our article on bee swarming signs to learn more about how to predict a swarm before it happens. You’ll have to split an overcrowded hive and you could end up with two or three hives by the end of the year. You can choose to merge two or more colonies in the fall to create one, strong colony to survive the winter. This stops the hives from growing too much that you’ll end up overwhelmed.
While you’ll be spending a lot of time inspecting your bees in the first few years, the long-term goal is to open your hives as little as possible while still tracking activities and changes throughout the season.
Expect to spend 15 to 30 hours in your first year to care for one hive. You’ll need more time with each additional hive you maintain. Spring will be your busiest time because you’ll be working directly in the hives. You will perform routine inspections every 1-2 weeks. Make any necessary hive repairs and keep a record of normal and abnormal bee behavior.
Winter is the time to do more research and prepare for the busy time during the warmer months. Research is an important part of beekeeping as the learning never ends. Even the most experienced beekeepers need to do research when a new problem arises.
Beekeeping takes up as much time as you want to put into it. The time you spend will depend on your goals and management style. When done properly, beekeeping can be a rewarding activity.
If you’re ready to move forward with beekeeping, check out our ultimate guide for how to become a beekeeper, then head over to our equipment page to see our lists of the best beekeeping equipment for beginners.