The Buzz About Backyard Beekeeping: How To Start Your Hive
If you’re hoping for a lush garden or would love some homegrown honey, backyard beekeeping may be your next hobby. There are benefits to becoming a beekeeper, according to BackYardHive.com, including fresh honey, a potentially bigger harvest from your garden and helping to increase the honeybee population, which has fallen due to disease and pesticides.
If you’re interested in becoming a backyard beekeeper, here are some helpful tips for starting your hive.
Planning for Your Bee Hive
Know Local Beekeping Laws
It’s important to understand your state and local regulations before you start establishing a bee colony. American Bee Journal says you’ll likely encounter local, state or federal regulations on your beekeeping hobby. You may be required to register bees, get inspections on honey you plan to sell or adhere to local zoning rules or homeowners association by-laws. Contact your local officials to be sure you are adhering to all applicable regulations as you delve into beekeeping.
Assess Space and Placement for Your Hive
Before becoming an urban beekeeper, make sure you have enough outdoor space for a beehive. Typically, a yard as small as one-tenth of an acre may be able to accommodate one or two bee colonies, according to Popular Mechanics. But it’s important to consider what else may be in the area and how you use it, says Popular Mechanics. Consider whether family and pets are frequently in the yard and where you spend time gardening. Even if you have space for a hive, you probably do not want to place it close to areas that are highly trafficked.
Also, determine if you have an appropriate place for the colony to live, says Rodale’s Organic Life. BackYardHive.com recommends the hive face southeast, so that it gets warmth from the early morning sun. Placing the hive nears trees that can provide some shade (you don’t want the bees to overheat) and shelter from cold winter winds is ideal, says Rodale’s. It’s also important to be sure there is a water source near the hive, according to Rodale’s.
Get Tested for Bee Sting Allergies
For safety reasons, Popular Mechanics recommends making sure no one in your family has an allergy to bee stings before you begin beekeeping. You may want to have your family tested just to be sure. Consider asking frequent visitors and nearby neighbors if they have bee sting allergies, too.
Ordering Supplies for Your Hive
Once you’ve done your research and are ready to get your hive started, The Spruce recommends the following steps for beginning beekeepers:
Order the Bees
While it may seem odd to order the bees before you have a hive, The Spruce recommends ordering your bees in the early winter to ensure you have them by spring. Rodale’s recommends purchasing from a local beekeeper as the bees are more likely to be native to your region, giving them a better chance of survival.
Choose Your Hive
Your bees will need a place to live, but you can choose the hive that works best for your space.
A Langstroth hive, which The Spruce notes is the most popular among beekeepers, is made up of boxes stacked on top of one another. The bees build their honeycomb and store honey in vertical frames within the boxes. The frames are in boxes that you pull out like drawers to get to the bees and harvest honey.
The other type of system is a top-bar hive, notes The Spruce. In this type of hive, the frames are arranged horizontally. You pull each bar out of the top of the hive to access the bees or honey and to perform maintenance.
It’s time to get the supplies you’ll need to care for your bees (and yourself). Here are a few standards items you’ll need to get started.
Protective gear. To protect yourself while working near the hives, The Spruce recommends some basic safety gear:
- Veil to protect your head, face and neck from stings.
- Gloves may be a good idea for beginners. You can use standard dishwashing gloves.
- Bee suit or a jacket and pants to help protect yourself from stings. Alternatively, wearing full-length pants and shirt may provide enough protection.
Tools. BackYardHive.com suggests starting with a few essential tools:
- Hive tool to open the boxes in your hive. It can also be used to help remove comb from the hive walls.
- Scraper to clean the sides of the hive the bars.
- Honey extractor to help remove the honey from the comb in a Langstroth hive.
Now that you’re up to speed on the beekeeping basics, you’re primed to learn more about this new potential hobby. Check out beginning beekeeping classes and read as much as you can to keep your hive buzzing.
Originally published on July 17, 2014.