There are many reasons why someone might want to take up beekeeping as a hobby. In today's world, the first reason that usually comes to mind is that honeybees are in trouble and we want to help them. Another reason that many folks want to keep bees is that they know honeybees will greatly help their fruit trees and gardens. These are good reasons, but beekeeping enriches lives in ways that most people don't realize.
For many years I was one to go from hobby to hobby, trying to find something that would keep my interest. I've collected coins, stamps and DVDs, studied foreign languages, built and flown RC planes, etc.. Finally, one day I looked to my wife and said "You know what I think would make a really great hobby? Beekeeping". She looked at me like I was crazy. When I started to pursue the idea, she knew I was crazy! But as I learned about bees and told her what I was learning, she was just as fascinated as I was! Beekeeping has kept my interest and enthusiasm the way that no other hobby ever has and I am so thankful for it that I cannot express to you just how much.
Beekeeping has always been good for the soul, and beekeepers inevitably develop a respect and sense of gratitude toward the hobby and towards the bees themselves. In Warré's book, Beekeeping for All, he wrote about his life with bees; how he saw them, felt about them, and how he felt about beekeeping in general. Here's is a little of what he had to say:
"It is also worth noting that beekeeping is a fascinating activity and consequently rests both mind and body. Furthermore, beekeeping is a moral activity, as far as it keeps one away from bars and low places and puts before the beekeeper an example of work, order and devotion to the common cause. Moreover, beekeeping is a preeminently healthy and beneficial activity, because it is most often done in the fresh air, in fine, sunny weather. For sunshine is the enemy of illness just as it is the master of vitality and vigor. Dr Paul Carton wrote: 'What is needed is to educate a generation in disliking alcohol, in despising meat, in distrusting sugar, in the joy and the great benefit of movement'. For the human being is a composite being. The body needs exercise, without which it atrophies. The mind needs exercising too, otherwise it deteriorates. Intellectuals deteriorate physically and laborers, behind their machines, suffer intellectual deterioration. Working the land is best suited to the needs of human beings. There, both mind and body play their part.
But society needs its thinkers, its office workers and its machine operators. Clearly, these people cannot run farms at the same time. But in their leisure time (they must have some of it) they can be gardeners and beekeepers and thus satisfy their human needs."
"It has been said that good fortune is giving it to others. Good fortune accrues to the souls of the elite. Now good fortune is not always possible, but you can find a considerable fortune in nature. It is with flowers that beauty endlessly rejuvenates itself. With dogs it is the boundless faithfulness, even in misfortune – unfailing recognition. The bee is a sweetheart and a delightful teacher. She provides an example of a wise and reasoned lifestyle, which gives solace from life's annoyances. The bee contents herself with the nourishment provided in the surroundings of the hive, without adding anything to it and without taking anything away from it. No ready-made meals; no imported early fruit or vegetables. The bee, however well provisioned she is, does not consume more than is absolutely necessary. She shows no gluttony.
The bee makes use of her terrible sting and dies in doing so in order to defend her family and her provisions. Otherwise, even when she is foraging, she gives way peacefully to people and to animals; without recrimination, without a fight. She is a pacifist, but she is not weak. Each bee has its task according to its age and abilities. It fulfills its task without desire, rebellion or anger. For the bee there is no humiliating work.
The queen lays tirelessly, thus assuring the perpetuation of the stock. The workers lovingly share their activity between the tender larvae, the hopes of the colony's future, and the fragrant fields where the nectar is harvested from dawn to dusk. No place in a buzzing colony for the useless. No parliaments; for this quiet populace has neither a taste for new laws nor the leisure for futile discussion.
We call the laying bee the queen. This is incorrect. There is neither a king, nor queen, nor dictator in the hive. Nobody is in charge, but rather they all work in their common interest. There is no egoism. The bee observes the law that is as healthy as it is imperative, a law often overlooked by humans: 'you earn your bread by the sweat of your brow'. I observe that the sweat of the bee, just as in cleansing her body, is useful to her in another way. Her sweat, in changing into scales of wax, provides the bee with the materials that she uses to make her wonderful cells, a clean storehouse for her provisions, a soft cradle for her young. It is so true that the observance of natural laws is always rewarded. Bees work day and night without respite. They only take a rest when there is no work to do. Not even a rest on the weekend. In the home of the bees there are neither pensioners nor retirees."
"Before leaving, I would like, dear bees, to carve my name on the leaves of this blessed shrub that has taken all its sap from around your dwelling place. In its shade, I have rested from my weariness, have healed my wounds. Its horizon satisfies my desires, for there I can see the heavens. Its solitude is more gentle than deep. Your friends are visiting it. You enliven it with your singing. And because you do not die, dear bees, you will sing again and forever, in the surrounding foliage, where my spirit will rest. Thank you."