There's been a lot of news lately about Beekeeping and Honey Bees. These hard workers are suffering from conditions loosely grouped under the term "colony collapse disorder" (CCD). The unfortunate thing is that when CCD strikes, there usually isn't a lot of evidence available as to why it happens, the bees just disappear.
are many theories, but little hard evidence as to why this happens and
the purpose here isn't to discuss CCD anyhow, it's to give you basic
information on setting up your own hive so that there is a sufficient
pollinator presence in your garden.
You're probably thinking- "Holy cow! I'm gonna get stung!" And I'm not going to tell you that you won't, it's an occupational hazard, but it's also not as frequent as you might think.
I started beekeeping more than thirty years ago. I lived in an urban area and kept the hives on a flat garage roof. The reason for keeping them on the roof was to elevate their flight path so that they were flying over and not through my neighbors' yards. This is to illustrate that you can keep bees almost anywhere. If you keep bees in a residential neighborhood, you can put a solid fence around them and that will force them to fly higher.
One of the side benefits of keeping bees is that you become more aware of the world around you. You come to realize that those weeds in the field are more than just weeds; they are important sources of nectar and pollen for the honey bee. Way back then, I thought that clover was only those little round white flowers in the lawn (Dutch clover trifolium repens) that you saw bees visiting. I didn't know what sweet clover melilotus albus (white) or melilotus officiinalis (yellow) was. The hobby even introduced me to Asters, Goldenrod and Joe Pye weed.
The style of beehive most commonly used are often referred to as a Langstroth hive, after their inventor. These are basically a box without a top or bottom. There are frames that hang inside them with wax sheets that the bees build their honey comb on. The hives are expandable by adding additional boxes or supers, to the stack. It is these upper supers that the honeybees use to store their honey. These supers are usually not as deep as the lower ones so they are easier to handle. A super full of honey can be quite heavy.
Starting a hive is pretty easy to do. Equipment for hives can be purchased over the internet if you can't find a local dealer. The equipment can be purchased assembled or not. Assembly is pretty basic and if you have a hammer and have used it once or twice, you can do it yourself. Those with modest woodworking skills can also make their own hive boxes, although we recommend that the frames that go into the boxes be purchased, they have small pieces which are tedious to cut and the cost savings isn't that great.
The bees themselves can also be purchased. They typically come in a package of 2 or 3 pounds and include a fertilized queen. And again, they can be purchased by mail if you don't have a local supplier. The bees travel amazingly well in their ventilated box.
Starting beekeepers should have their hives assembled and ready before they get their bees so that they can put the bees into the hive as soon as they get them. Although they travel well, it is stressful, and just like all of us, keeping stress to a minimum is always a good thing.
This is a brief, introductory overview of a fascinating hobby, and there are many books available that can help you learn more about honeybees and their importance to our food supply.
Here are two of the most respected books on beekeeping and a few others that we have found useful-
The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture
The Hive and the Honey Bee
The New Complete Guide to Beekeeping
Discover Beekeeping - A Beginner Beekeepers Guide
And some suppliers of Beekeeping Equipment and Bees-
Mann Lake Ltd.
Queen Right Colonies
Return to Pollinators from Beekeeping