SO YOU WANT TO BECOME A BEEKEEPER!
Read some books in advance, take one of our introductory classes, and attend our monthly meetings is the best way to get started. If you need a mentor the Guild can help with that too. If you are new to beekeeping (or just thinking about it) you might start by reading our Most Frequently Asked Questions first.
10 Most Frequently Asked Questions
- Are there local regulations pertaining to beekeeping? Possibly. Check with your local jurisdiction. More importantly, it’s good to check with your neighbors. Complaints about your bees could result in you having to move or remove your bees. Finally, hives must be registered with the County. Complete the Santa Barbara County Apiary Registration. You can complete the form online (click link in text) and may email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do African bees reside in Santa Barbara County? Strictly speaking, no, but some colonies have been “Africanized”. This hybrid aggressive sub-species was discovered in Santa Barbara County in 2002, and found again in 2014. Local beekeepers often refer to more aggressive bees as “spicy”, not “africanized”. There are far more gentle colonies in SBCO than spicy ones.
- Will I get stung and/or is getting stung a concern for children or nearby neighbors? Even if you take precautions you will get stung, eventually. A beekeeper can expect more stings as they begin keeping bees, and fewer as they continue. (Before getting started, it’s not a bad idea to have a bee sting you - to see how you react.) For the great majority of people a bee sting is no big deal. However, for a small percentage of people, a single bee sting could put a person into anaphylaxis shock. Persons who know they are allergic often carry an EpiPen.
- How do I obtain bees? Many bee clubs or associations pre-purchase “package” bees via US mail. However, the Beekeepers Guild believes that purchasing package bees is unwise and stressful for the bees; you don’t know what you are getting and you can’t send them back if there is a problem. You should buy local wherever you are and/or rely on swarms for populating your hive. The Guild can put you in touch with those that can provide you with local bees.
- How much honey can I expect to get? It will depend on a lot of things but in most years you should expect an average of perhaps 30-50lb per hive. However, due to the drought and other factors local beekeepers are currently taking very little honey, if any, from their hives.
- How many hives should I start with? Certainly starting with one hive is acceptable, but there is an advantage to starting with at least two because with two hives you can share resources between hives. In addition, bee mortality is currently high; expect to lose 25-40% of your bees so having two hives may “take the sting” out of losing a large number of your bees.
- How much does it cost to get started? This varies greatly. For example, some choose to build their own hive box. One can spend from $100-$1,000 to get started. A good beginner’s budget is $500. That will be sufficient to purchase one (1) hive box, bees, tools and protective clothing.
- How Much Time And Commitment Is Required? Some beekeepers are more hands-on while others are content with just letting the bees “do their thing”. You can be involved as much or as little as you wish; depending on your philosophy. Generally speaking, beekeeping is a bit like gardening; you are busy during the Spring/Summer months. Then again, there are those that rarely open their hives.
- Do I need a lot of space to have bees? Not necessarily but the larger the property the more options you have for hive placement (in the sun most of the day), the number of hives you wish to have, and, most importantly, keeping a nervous neighbor at bay or needing to comply with a setback requirement. Someone from the Guild would be happy to advise you. If you don’t have sufficient space, you may know someone that would allow you to host a hive on their property.
- What is the best way to get started? Join the Guild; read as many books as you can, and take a beginning beekeeping class. Check the Guild’s website for more information.
Here’s a few sites to check out. Enjoy!