Are you interested in beekeeping? If so, consider checking with your local community college to see if they offer a non-credited beekeeping course. Below is a link to the Harford County Community College's beekeeping class.
Some community colleges have an arrangements with local counties beekeeping clubs to offer a free one-year membership to their club. However, If taking more college classes isn't you cup of tea, consider reading at least one basic beekeeping book before you get your first bees.
Below are a few books on beekeeping
Getting Started in Beekeeping Waring, Adrian & Claire
First Lessons In Beekeeping Dadant, C. P.
Beekeeping for Dummies 4th edition Howland Blackiston 2017
Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees Sanford, Malcom
Either way you chose, the more educated you are on honey bees, the more successful you will be in this beekeeping. I love beekeeping, however will admit freely, it's not an easy hobby. Being a successful beekeeper is very loosely akin to being a farmer and a veterinarian.
Honey bees don't need to be cared for daily like livestock, however routine observations of they behavior are extremely helpful. Unlike humans, insects can't tell us what's wrong with them. Veterinarian rely on years of education and the power of observation to help diagnose what ailing an animal. Successful beekeepers rely on informal their keen power of observation to determine how a colony is doing and what type of assistance if any the beekeeper could provide colonies. Through routine inspections, beekeepers must try to determine if their colonies are healthy or sick. The beekeeper must be able to determine of their colonies are gathering enough food or are they starving. He or she must be able to identify through telltale signs if a colony is queenless or preparing to swarm Staying educated on the newest bee practices, evolving diseases and latest equipment is critical to keeping your hives regenerating year after year. Getting honey from your hive takes a lot more work than it did 50 years ago. Honeybees have to face non-native parasites and disease, an increasing loss of natural habitats and food sources. They have to deal with presents of miticides pesticides, and insecticides and the effects of global warming.
Regardless of how you get your knowledge, seriously consider joining a local beekeeping club. It's a great place to get advice on bee issues and ideas to improve you beekeeping skills. Most clubs offer mentorships and some even have a lending library with more books on beekeeping than you would ever want to buy. I've been a mentor for several years and I enjoy helping new beekeepers learn the ins and outs of this rewarding hobby and while also helping them navigate the challenges new beekeepers face.
How much does it cost to get into this hobby? The cost for a hive, frames, basic hardware, tools, a beekeeping suit, and an initial package of bees or a nuc will run you about $400. If you plan to jump into this hobby, you will need to decide if you want to buy a package of bees or to purchase an existing hive (nuc). Packages of bees are cheaper, however they have a higher risk of failure as the queen and worker bees are not from different colonies. Nucs will cost more, however you are getting an established colony with a proven laying queen and worker bees of her lineage.
As for me, I have been a beekeeper since 2010, just prior to retiring from the military.
Three years ago, my wife Becky and I turned our hobby into a small business. Currently, we maintain around 50 hives and provide pollination services for several Hartford county produce farmers. Additionally, we sell honey and produce and sell nucs.
If you have any questions about becoming a beekeeper, feel free to hit me on via your email address or through our facebook account.