Honeybees are winged warriors that pollinate plants to give us avocados, cherries, melons, broccoli, squash-and thousands of other foods we depend on. These pollinators are quickly disappearing. Honeybees are losing habitat, tracheal and varroa mites are killing them in large numbers, and they are also being damaged by cell phone radiation.
Backyard beekeeping is a healthy hobby that promotes healthy bee populations. Nowadays, people are drawn to beekeeping because they are striving to live more sustainably and because a beehive at home helps maintain the balance of nature. And with your efforts, you are rewarded with a bounty of honey from the comb. The raw honey you can harvest is far tastier and healthier than grocery store honey, which is pasteurized.
If you're considering beekeeping as a hobby, this guide will give you an overview of the general tasks involved in starting a hive and getting the most out of it.
Beekeeping is a fun hobby, but not a simple one. It requires a lot of knowledge, and you'll need to invest some time and money to get it going. Before you start beekeeping, make sure you:
Study the specifics of beekeeping, such as choosing the hive, keeping the colony healthy, harvesting honey, and caring for the bees. Specific geographical locations will be best suited for beehives, such as the south. There's a lot to learn upfront, so seek out reliable sources. Are there are beekeepers in the community? Is your university's extension center a beekeeping resource? Reach out for advice. Having beekeepers in your contact list can be helpful.
Before you invest any money, check with your city's laws on beekeeping. Most cities have specific beekeeping ordinances that require a permit to practice.
Some states require you to get your neighbors' permission before beekeeping. Take into consideration that they or their family members might have an allergic reaction to bee stings, which can be deadly. Ask neighbors if they would mind.
The amount of backyard space you'll need depends on what type of beehive you choose. A general rule of thumb is to have six to eight feet of space around your hive. This gives your bees enough room to fly around the hive without getting in anyone's way, but if your yard is on the smaller side, putting a tall fence in front of your hive will encourage the bees to fly upward and stay out of your hair.
A two-hive setup is ideal for beginners. The initial outlay is around $1,000, including the bees, protective gear, and supplies. You will probably spend an hour a week with bees. Beekeeping is a complex hobby, and many beekeepers admit that the more they learn about it, the more they get caught up in the bees and become involved in learning and research about it.
Bees start with woodenware, the bottom and body of the hive, and the top cover. Proper care should last 10 to 20 years.
There are two main types of beehives you'll choose from when starting your colony:
Langstroth hive. Langstroth hive is a series of stackable boxes that each have square frames for bees to build comb in.
Top bar hive. This hive is ancient. Top bar hives have bars that lay horizontally across the top of a long wooden box, and the bees build their comb downward from the bars.
Put the hives as far away as possible from play equipment and other high-traffic areas in your patio. Set the hives, so they face south, east, or southeast. In the morning, the warm sunshine gets the bees moving, and in the evening, cooler shade brings relief.
Hive tool. It's like a crowbar for your beehive. It's used to pry apart the wooden boxes that get stuck together with beeswax.
Smoker. We've all seen these in the movies. E-cigs calm bees so you can get into the hive easier to collect honey or repair the hive.
Scraper. Scrapers remove the built-up wax from your beehive.
Uncapping scratcher. You need to uncap the comb using one of these tools.
Honey extractor. They're used to extract honey from the comb. Many different styles exist, including manual and automatic devices.
Veil. A veil protects your face and neck from any rogue bees and their painful stingers.
Gloves. A pair of long gloves staves off stings when you're handling your hive.
Bee suit. The iconic white beekeeper suit protects your body from bee stings. A long-sleeved shirt and pants will work too.
After you collect the hives, you'll need bees. All honeybees are members of the genus apis. The most commonly kept species in America is the European honeybee.
A starter colony of bees provides you with an easy way to colonize your hives. A nucleus colony contains many honeycombs, brood, and a queen, along with many workers to expand the hive. You can transfer the small frames to your larger hive boxes, and the colony will build up fairly quickly since the eggs, larvae, and honey stores are included.
Queen bee. Each hive has one queen who takes care of all the reproduction in the colony, laying all of the eggs and choosing when to lay drones and workers.
Worker bees. These sterile female bees do all of the work. They forage, care for the young, produce and store honey, make wax, clean the hive, and defend it against predators.
Drones. The only male bees in the colony, the drones have one sole purpose for existing: To mate with all of the virgin queens from other colonies to spread their own colony's genes far and wide.
You've got your bees and your beehive, so when do you get to start harvesting honey? Traditionally, you should wait until around 90 percent of the frame cells of the honeycomb are capped. For modern beekeepers, a refractometer can be used to test the moisture content of the honey - harvest it when it reaches 18.6 percent.
You'll want to thoroughly understand honey before you harvest your first batch. You'll put on your protective gear, calm the bees, remove the comb from your hive, and take it to your work station. You will remove the wax cap from the comb, which can be used to make candles or added to homemade cosmetics. You'll remove the honey from the comb, leaving the comb intact and ready to be put back in the hive. Honey will settle for a few days in a container, then is ready to bottle.
Organic honey is truly the nectar of the gods and has been used as a folk remedy for thousands of years. Honey is packed with phytonutrients, which boost the immune system and fight against a few diseases. These powerful phytonutrients are responsible for honey's antioxidant properties, which help protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals. As a prebiotic, honey promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut for better digestive health, and its antifungal and antibacterial properties make it an excellent emergency salve for wounds. Organic honey may also help improve cholesterol and boost immunity.
* It's a great moisturizer for dry skin - including your scalp - thanks to its ability to retain water.
* Honey's antioxidants and antifungals can help treat acne and pimples.
* Soothe minor burns with a slather of honey, which will cool and promote healing.
* For a sore throat or cough, add honey to your hot tea.
* Make lip balm, deodorant, or candles from discarded beeswax.
Beekeeping is a beautiful way for humans and nature to support each other. Bring bees into your backyard, and help boost a declining population while enjoying the sweet, fresh honey they leave behind for your toast and tea.
Rocio Espinoza is a mother of 2 and Content Marketing Specialist at Porch.com. She is passionate about wellness and fitness, and her hobbies are reading, writing, and music.