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As pastimes go, there are certainly less involved ways to occupy oneself than beekeeping. Caring for a colony of bees is a high-commitment pursuit with a relatively steep learning curve. Still, that hasn’t stopped swarms of novices from trying their hand at backyard beekeeping.
“We’ve seen it really grow as a hobby,” says Chelsea Bray, store manager at The Bee Box, a beekeeping supply and honey store that opened in East Sacramento earlier this year. “We have been helping all kinds of people get into backyard beekeeping. We want to make it available to everybody.”
Storeowner Jeff Becker is delighted by the swell of interest in beekeeping. “We have had a fantastic response from customers,” says Becker, whose son represents the fourth generation of his family to keep bees. “I want more kids and young people getting involved in the bees.”
Sandy Honigsberg of Cool is part of the new wave of amateur beekeepers. She started keeping bees more than a year ago as a way to meet new people, learn something new and satisfy her curiosity about the amazing winged creatures. “The more research I did, the more curious I got,” says Honigsberg, who recently expanded from two hives to four. “They are a phenomenon to learn about. They are so smart. They are smarter than humans, if you ask me.”
Honigsberg says she owes much of her success to joining a group—Nevada County Beekeepers—where she can learn from experienced beekeepers. “By joining the organization, I was able to find a mentor and take lots of classes,” explains Honigsberg. “Having that support system is huge. Bees are a little tricky. You don’t just go into this hobby without knowing anything.”
Edible bee pollen
In spite of having her hives destroyed by bears more than once, Honigsberg has derived a lot of satisfaction from her new hobby. But she cautions beginners not to dive in too quickly.
“You really have to be serious about it. As stories are told in our group, 20 years ago you’d throw up a hive in the back of your yard in the spring and harvest the honey in the fall. But those days are long gone,” explains Honigsberg. “Beekeeping is involved these days because of the stresses affecting bees. You have to be dedicated to caring for your bees or they’re not going to survive, and you’re going perpetuate the problems facing them.”
Becker, whose family runs 4,000 colonies of bees, agrees that beekeeping requires a certain level of dedication. His advice to novices: “Go slow. Don’t be in a hurry. If you treat the bees well and you respect them, they will take care of you with honey and pollination. It’s like anything else; you just can’t push them too hard.”
Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association
The Bee Box
4765 J St.; (916) 475-1828;
Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies
2110 X St.; (916) 451-2337;