Beekeeping: A Buzzworthy Topic

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By Wendy Migdal

Say the word “beekeeper” and the image that comes to mind is probably that of a brave and possibly eccentric soul in what looks like other-worldly garb, or perhaps a hazmat suit. Prior to about 2007, beekeeping may have seemed like a very niche hobby. That year, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder became widely known. Commercial honeybees were disappearing. And since they are a keystone species (one on which many other species in an ecosystem depend), people became concerned, and rightly so, about the future of bees.

John Klapperich of The Bee Store in Lake Ridge explains that people are drawn to apiculture for several reasons. Some want to do their part to help the declining population, which, he points out, is not endangered due to the short life span of honeybees and the speed that the colonies can be rebuilt. However, this does result in an increase of prices at the grocery store.

Other potential beekeepers use the bees to pollinate their own gardens in an effort to be self-sustaining. Some are health-conscious. “You started seeing programs about how honey is adulterated. It really brought some awareness to what you’re eating.” Still others want to start a business, making and selling honey and other beeswax products.


Beekeepers check on their hives about once a week, feed them when food is not available, and inspect them for disease.

Honeybees play a critical role in agriculture, and many of the foods we enjoy today — melons, peppers, blueberries — would not be possible without the pollination of honeybees. Interestingly, there were no honeybees in North America prior to 1622, when they were brought to the Jamestown colony. (There were, of course, plenty of other species of bees, who do their share of pollinating.)

Klapperich says CCD was responsible for most of the surge in interest in beekeeping, although COVID has played a role too, as it has with almost everything. “We saw an influx of new interest because people were stuck at home. They were looking for hobbies to do at home because you couldn’t go anywhere,” he says. He himself became interested when he retired from the military and wanted something new to do.

Getting Started

If this puts a bee in your bonnet, there’s still time to get in on the bee action this year. May is when new beekeepers get started. And don’t think that it’s beyond your reach. “I tell people that beekeeping is about 90% easier than raising a puppy,” Klapperich says. “You install bees in your beehives and you check on them once a week. You feed them when there is no food and inspect them for pests and diseases, but beyond that, there’s not much to it.” John Klapperich of The Bee Store in Lake Ridge.


Klapperich keeps a hive in his store for educational purposes.

Nevertheless, he encourages people to learn as much as they can, and to go to reliable sources. There are many beekeeping clubs and associations in the area, including Prince William Regional Beekeepers Association. Some have monthly, and others, bimonthly meetings. Most offer Bee School (a several-week course in introductory beekeeping), which are usually held during the winter months. He offers classes in his store on a variety of topics and keeps a hive in the store that he uses for illustration purposes. There are also online courses through universities.

“You can expect to spend about $1200 to $1500 dollars to get started,” says Klapperich. “Some people have a little bit of sticker shock at that.” After that, though, he says it’s not too bad. New beekeepers purchase a small nucleus colony (called a nuc), transport them home in their cars, and install them in their waiting beehives. “The bees are free-range,” he chuckles. (In fact, bees can travel 5 miles from their hive in a day and return home for dinner at night.)


Beekeeping as a hobby has a number of things going for it. Many people derive satisfaction out of knowing they’re doing something to help the environment. Klapperich says they can see the benefits of increased pollination not only in their own backyards, but in the whole neighborhood, though he cautions that the changes may not be immediately apparent. And like a rain barrel or rain garden, it’s a way to turn your own property from being part of the problem to part of the solution.

Beekeeping also gets you outside, and many people find that it’s beneficial to their mental health. Not only that, like many other hobbies, there’s a whole new community to become a part of.

Common Concerns

But what about bee stings? Won’t you be stung all the time? Klapperich says no. “Honeybees are not aggressive. People mostly get stung when they step on them, or when they fly into ladies’ hair.” He even knows people who are allergic and still keep bees, with full protective gear on. “But that’s a conversation between you and your doctor.”

In Prince William, a person is allowed by law to keep four hives on a 10,000-square-foot property. “But for people in this area, which is very transient, it’s easy to offload the hives if you have to move,” he says. “Someone will come to pick them up from you.”

If all this sounds like the bee’s knees, we suggest you contact the Prince William Regional Beekeepers Association at to learn more.

Wendy Migdal is a freelance writer who has lived in the Northern/Central Virginia area since 2000. She has written extensively for The Free Lance-Star and also works for online educational companies. Wendy enjoys traveling around the area to learn about parks, restaurants, attractions, and especially history.


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