How to Get into Beekeeping

The world of beekeeping is a complex yet rewarding journey and can have a sweet outcome. However, honeybees are in grave danger, as Colony Collapse Disorder and many other factors are causing declining numbers around the globe. The best way to help this growing issue is to get into beekeeping and introduce more honeybees into the ecosystem. There are many ways to get into beekeeping, with various expense levels. This piece will outline just a few ways to get introduced into the world of beekeeping. 

The Iowa Honey Producers Association offers a youth scholarship program that allows youths to enter the world of beekeeping. Requirements include being 13 to 16 years old by November first of the current year, being enrolled in public, private, or homeschool, completing all paperwork with supporting documents turned in by September 30th, and being new to beekeeping. Following the application is received a selection of committee members will determine the finalists. These selected members will be notified by phone and select a time to interview at the November annual IHPA meeting, and have the opportunity to meet their mentors. When a youth is awarded this scholarship they are awarded all necessary materials to start beekeeping. This includes a mentor, enrollment in beekeeping classes, hive equipment, and a package of honeybees. The application for this scholarship can be found on the Iowa Honey Producers Association website under the programs tab. This method is a way to start beekeeping at a very low cost, with much-needed guidance. It also has many other opportunities to grow as an individual such as interviews or queen programs. 

Another way to get into beekeeping is by researching local beekeeping classes offered, these can be at a low or no cost. Classes and research are a critical part of the introduction into the world of beekeeping as there is a lot of knowledge needed. Education opportunities can be found with a quick google search or by using websites such as IHPA to find information. Following classes you can choose to purchase hive boxes, protective gear (bee suit/jacket and gloves), honeybees, and other needed equipment and start up your own hive(s); however, this can be rather expensive. 

A fairly inexpensive way to get a start in beekeeping is to find a local beekeeper and ask if you can experience being in a hive and the world of beekeeping without the full commitment of purchasing your own hives. Talking to local people around your hometown may be able to aid you in locating a beekeeper, however, the IHPA also has an excellent collection of contact information for beekeepers all around Iowa. The state apiarists and inspectors are also an excellent source to gain beeke

A cost-effective method is to learn the practice of catching swarms (honeybees that have split away from their original hive) with purchased or made equipment. Contacting your local police department can have you put on a swarms list, where you can be contacted when swarms of bees however become a complaint. This method eliminates the cost of having to purchase honeybees, but can often have more personal risks and injury. If you choose to use this method, remember to always put safety first, as an Emergency Room visit is not worth a bunch of bees. 

Regardless of the method you choose to get introduced to beekeeping, it’s a wonderful opportunity to have an impact on the ecosystem around you while gaining many sweet rewards.