Keeping bees is a fantastically rewarding hobby - but how do you know if you can? There are several things to consider...
Keeping bees requires small amounts of regular time with the bees. You typically have to spend around half an hour per week with a hive. You can do this at the weekend or, if the weather is still good, when you return from work. Most beekeepers would like to spend more time with their bees rather than less, as beekeeping is highly addictive. Unlike keeping other animals, the bees mostly look after themselves and will not notice if you go on holiday. In all, you might spend 20-30 hours over the course of a year with the bees.
Bees can be kept anywhere from country orchards to urban gardens to small city balconies. It is a common misconception that you need a large garden or countryside nearby. Although this can make siting your bees easier, urban gardens are arguably better. Nectar and pollen can be gathered from a wide variety of plants. This means that there is often a constant source of food throughout the summer and a lack of harmful pesticides.
You might be worried what you neighbours will think. If you have a large garden, it is possible that your neighbours will not know you have bees. However, if space is tight, you need to carefully plan the beehive site and ensure you purchase bees that are good tempered (i.e. buy you bees from a reputable supplier). The beehive should be located in such a way that the entrance of the hive does not point into a footpath or busy area of the garden.
Beekeeping requires a few pieces of essential equipment including clothing, tools and (obviously) a hive. These are covered later in the guide.