Have you event wanted to raise bees? Honey is an important part of food storage for many families and it would be nice to have an unending supply. For some, honey production is also a successful small business venture.
But is it a realistic possibility, particularly for people living in town?
I’ve recently become acquainted with Scott Brimhall, a Orem resident who has spent the past 12 years raising bees as a hobby. He says it can be a rewarding venture but it does have a steep learning curve, requires quite a bit of labor to get started and also requires a substantial up-front investment.
“I started about 12 years ago as a hobby. I was looking for something I could do for my family. What could I do or give all of my family members as a Christmas present that they wouldn't think was junk or dorky?”
The project mushroomed from there. “For good and bad,” Scott said. It has been time-intensive and expensive but also fun. He is sticking with it, keeping hives going year after year. He gives almost all of the honey away as gifts, just keeping what his own family will use.
He keeps two hives going. Within the city of Orem, two hives is the maximum number that can be kept by residential beekeepers. Scott said you can start with just one hive but having two greatly increases your chance of success. If you have just one hive and the queen dies, you could lose your entire project. If you have two queens you can probably keep it going.
“On a good year I bring in about 60 pounds of honey per hive,” Scott said. (The industry average is about 50 pounds per hive. “That lets me give honey to a lot of people.”
Scott said he is mostly self-taught. “I checked out a book from the library and jumped in. I’ve learned a lot from trial and error.”
But Scott recommends people interested in beekeeping get more training than he had. There are several good resources in this area. He recommends people join the Utah Beekeepers Association and take advantage of the educational resources it offers.
He has purchased bees from several companies, with various results. He recommends Knights Family Honey in Lehi, “They are good people and can be very helpful.”
People keeping bees in Utah also need to register with the Utah Department of Agriculture. That department is charged with keeping bees healthy and monitoring the presence of Africanized bees in the state. The department also offers educational resources for beekeepers.
The time commitment varies from week to week throughout the season. In the spring you may spend a two hours ever couple of days getting set up and making sure the bees are ok and getting established. During summer you mostly just monitor the bees to make sure everything is ok. During fall you need to invest a hefty amount of time to harvest the honey and get make sure the bees are set for winter.
Right now, a package of bees with a queen will cost about $85. The hives are more expensive. Depending on your setup, you could spend about $400 on the boxes, foundation and other equipment.
So, about $500 per hive for the initial investment. That doesn’t count protective clothing. Scott said the bees are usually relatively mild during spring and summer but they become aggressive during fall when they want to protect the honey. You definitely need protective clothing.
“You can go cheep, buy just a hat and veil, go out in your sweatshirt, and do ok, You might get stunt a couple of times. I sure like my full bee suite.”
So, the investment can be quite high the first year. But, if things go well you can reap the benefit for many years into the future. Raising bees can be fun and rewarding.
The Provo City Council will review its year-old ordinance on residential bee keeping and decide it if needs any modifications.
The current ordinance allows honey bees and Mason bees to be kept in residential areas.
The Provo Herald has this article about the issue. Here are excerpts.
By law, beekeepers must register with the Utah Department of Agriculture, but the enforcement of the laws connected to beekeeping in each city are different. Salt Lake City's residential beekeeping laws are enforced by the Salt Lake County Health Department. Provo's is enforced by animal control officers.
Siufanua reports that in all of the cases when the police officers went to residents' homes, none of the resident beekeepers were registered with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The police officers issued warnings in those situations.
Now taking orders for Honeybee Packages for 2012.
We are excited to have packages available for you again in 2012. We have 3# packages of Italian honey bees with a fresh 2012 mated queen. The queens are from Pendell Apiaries again this year. It doesn't take much research to find that they are a queen breeder with a reputation for high quality, productive Hygienic Italian honeybee queens.
Package Prices are as follows:
1-4 Packages : $77.00
5-14 Packages : $76.00
15+ Packages : $75.00
(This was posted by Dave Webb for an acquaintance)