Plan bee: Basic rules to become a beekeeper

Around 2000 species of bee live in Australia but the best known is surely the honey bee. These very busy bees make 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of honey each year and a fair amount of that honey is produced in Victoria.

There are just over 7600 beekeepers in the state – more than in any other part of the country, and according to government statistics most are hobby beekeepers.

Read also: Promoting Sustainable Beekeeping to Alleviate Deprivation and Poverty

“Only five per cent of registered beekeepers in Victoria are commercial – most are backyard beekeepers,” says Bec McBride, who comes from a beekeeping family and runs Bec’s BeeHive.

In Ghana, this statistics is nothing to write home about – one hand full of people are beekeepers.

Read also: Beekeeping: The New A-List Trend To Get On Board With Now – James Middleton

Bec McBride again opine, “When I started running workshops for beekeepers, they were mostly retired people tinkering in the shed, but now I teach men and women of all ages from rural areas, the inner city and suburbs. Most are interested in sustainable living – they might have had backyard chooks and now they’re interested in bees.”

Young beekeeper setting up his apiary in Ghana

Here some guidelines to become a beekeeper.

Join a local beekeeping club or association and do a course. Learn to look after bees before you get them.

You don’t just sit bees at the back of the yard or your farm and then collect honey whenever you feel like it. They need some maintenance.

Introductory courses should cover the rules and regulations around beekeeping, where to position your hive, how to build a hive, the pests and diseases that can threaten bees and how to manage bees through the seasons – enroll for a course.

In Ghana, Bees for development Ghana, are committed to developing the beekeeping sector in the country – provide advice and training.

The demands of beekeeping change with the seasons – understand the seasons. August to October is a busy time as the bee colony expands and swarm – you need to spend at least an hour a week with your bees then to ensure they have enough space.

December to March is the honey flow season in Ghana. Hives grow and then shrink according to the growth of the bee colony and the amount of nectar being stored. In the dry season the hives are high and in rainy season they drop down.

Beekeepers must comply with an Apiary Code of Practice 1997 and Livestock Disease Control Act 1994. This covers requirements such as avoiding swarming of bees, ensuring that bee flight paths don’t interfere with neighbours, and making sure that hives are placed more than three metres from the boundaries of neighbouring properties.

The regulations are also designed to keep bees healthy and disease free. For example, Mat says “We are the last country in the world not to have a parasitic mite that has decimated bee populations around the world.”

Bees are very social and can carry disease from one hive to another. Having a clear understanding of how to spot early signs of disease is important.

Also read: Harmony in the hive: What do bees need?

You need a protective suit, gloves, veil, a smoker that helps calm down the bees, a hive tool, a bee brush, the hives and bees.

Expect to spend about GHS1000.00 or more [depending on th number of hives, and other beekeeping equipment] to get started. However, with the help of bees for development Ghana you can spend as less as GHS200.00 when you use fixed comb hives [use locally available materials to build your hives].

Related article: Building resilient and sustainable beekeeping: Lessons from Africa

It’s not surprising that more people are discovering the pleasures of beekeeping because it can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby. There is a gentle hum which is quite meditative and because you are in the bees’ space, you have to be present and mindful in what you are doing. And you get the by-product of delicious honey.

You may also read: Bees for Development Ghana Trains Unemployed Youth in Beekeeping

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