Beekeeping has been around for a very long time. People have long been fascinated with honey bees.
And for thousands of years, that fascination has motivated many to become beekeepers, just as it does today.
But historically, it's been much more than just interest in honey bees that inspired people to become beekeepers.
For thousands of years, honey was the only sweet available to humans. To get honey, though, they had to search for a colony of bees in the wild.
It didn’t take long for people to learn how to keep bees, eliminating the hit-or-miss process of finding a wild hive to rob.
When you ran out of honey, it was much easier rob one of your hives in the castle keep (or wherever you lived) than to go on a wild bee hunt.
The earliest beekeepers kept colonies in crude containers lacking the removable combs that are characteristic of our modern hives.
When it was time to harvest the honey, they would just exterminate the bees and cut the honeycomb out of the hive.
And then they'd just start the process over with another colony.
Essentially, beekeeping wasn't much different from just robbing wild hives. They just didn't have to hunt the hives down.
The techniques and equipment available to beekeepers today are certainly much more advanced.
But in many parts of the world, the old rude and crude methods of beekeeping are still practiced.
We know much more about honey bees now than ever before.
(Check out some of the early misconceptions about honey bees!)
But there’s still much we don't know. And that's a good thing.
Because there's enough that we don’t understand about bees to lend an aura of mystery and wonder to the art of keeping bees.
Beekeeping just wouldn't be the same otherwise!
Keeping bees on a small scale has always been popular. But in recent years, hobby beekeeping has absolutely been booming in popularity.
In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that about 99 percent of all beekeepers are now hobbyists or part-timers - not professionals.
Why has hobby beekeeping become so popular?
You could ask many different hobby beekeepers, and probably get many different answers.
Certainly, the production of honey along with bee pollen, propolis, and beeswax is a major incentive for many. After all, there’s nothing quite like feasting on a chunk of honeycomb right out of your own hive!
And some people, especially gardeners, keep honeybees primarily for their value as pollinators.
Just a hive or two can make quite a dramatic difference in the quality of produce harvested from a small garden or orchard - particularly in an area where there is a shortage of bees.
These are people who love honey, but view supermarket honey with the same concerns that many have about non-organic supermarket produce.
So they produce their own honey to eliminate concerns about eating honey that might be impure or contaminated with pesticides.
I think there’s something else that draws people to beekeeping.
For many of us, having bees offers a way of reconnecting with nature. It satisfies a yearning for a commune with the natural world - something that many of us miss in our modern, technology-laden lives.
Whatever the incentive, though, just about anyone interested in beekeeping can take up the hobby, regardless of where they live.
You don’t have to live in the country to keep bees.
One more great thing about becoming a hobby beekeeper? You'll be doing our planet a great favor.
As you probably know, bees have had a tough time in recent years. Bee populations have been in decline.
And hobby beekeepers are playing a very real and important role in helping to slow the decline of bee populations.
So if you're about to take the plunge into beekeeping, enjoy; it's a great hobby.
And thanks for helping to make this world a better place.