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©2011 Shanna Lea (formerly Shanna Ohmes)
Backyard beekeeping is shaping up to be the latest trend in urban areas in addition to gardening, chickens and rabbits. Why should you raise bees? Bees are essential for the pollination of plants and crops. The last few years there has been an overwhelming disappearance of bees due to colony collapse disorder (CCD). Without the bees, we will have fewer crops leading to increased food prices as well as food shortages. But as an individual, you can change this, just by adding a beehive to your backyard. Here are 10 reasons why raising bees is important for our urban backyards:
- Beekeeping can be done by anyone—men, women, seniors, even children (under adult supervision) can enjoy beekeeping as a hobby that can grow into a small-farm business. The only part of beekeeping that is physically demanding is lifting the supers full of honey. These are the boxes that hold the frames full of honey and honeycomb.
- Beekeeping can be done practically anywhere there are flowering plants, trees or shrubs. Bees can be kept in the cold north, desert or humid southern areas. Be sure to contact your local beekeeping group to learn how to keep bees in your area. Beehives can be kept in the city as well as the country, just think of the gardens kept in backyards everywhere that can benefit from bees. Be sure to check your city ordinances first before setting up your first hive.
- Unlike livestock, bees don’t have to be fed and watered every day. No twice-a-day milking, hauling hay or tromping through the snow to break ice. Bees do need supplemental feeding in spring and fall, so you will need to check food reserves in their hives every few days. During summer, just do a once-a-week check on their health and see how honey production is going. Late summer, remove the surplus of honey from the hive. If you have 1-2 hives, this can be done in a day. In winter—no work for the beekeeper! Use this time to plan the next year out for increasing honey production. Read the latest on beekeeping and stay informed on what’s happening in your hobby. Beekeeping can be another part of your farm chores or even done if you have a full-time career.
- Bees benefit you and your neighbors by pollinating plants in gardens, orchards, vineyards or farm crops. Bees increase fruit, vegetable and flower production. Bees travel up to 3 miles away from their hive looking for food sources so they benefit everyone in your area. You can also rent hives to farmers to pollinate their crops.
- Your own honey will taste more delicious than any you buy. Raw honey from your own hives can be added to a cup of hot tea, drizzled on warm biscuits or used to create moist baked goods. Local raw honey alleviates allergy symptoms and it makes wonderful gifts for family and friends.
- Bees produce more than honey! Wax, propolis and royal jelly have all been used and enjoyed by beekeepers for personal use and to add additional products to sell. Make candles from the beeswax, they burn cleaner and have a mild, sweet fragrance. Add honey and beeswax into your soap, lotion and lip balm recipes. Use the excess milk from your cows, goats or sheep to make milk and honey soap to sell.
- Hummm along with your bees! Working with bees requires you to be calm and to have smooth, deliberate movements and concentration. By staying focused, relaxed and concentrated on the task at hand, your stress will melt away. You can calm your mind and focus on observing the hive community and listen to the hum.
- Startup costs are inexpensive, compared with other farming startups. Beginner kits are in the $165-450 range and include a hive, basic tools, smoker, gloves, veiled hat and an introductory beekeeping book. Bees are purchased as a package with workers, drones and a queen.
- Beekeeping is a hobby that can easily turn a profit. It can pay for itself after the first year, since the hive can produce about 100 pounds of surplus honey in a good year. Many beginners start out with 2 hives and market value-added products like candles, soaps, lotions, lip balm or sell wax, pollen and propolis. And don’t forget the added bonus of increased garden productivity.
- Due to the devastating effects of colony collapse disorder (CCD), bees have been disappearing from our landscape. By going back to small-scale beekeeping, we may be able to regenerate colonies and thus ensure our future food supply.
It goes without saying, if you or your family members have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings, then beekeeping is not for you. A severe allergic reaction can result in anaphylactic shock and rapid death. Immediate epinephrine treatment is needed.
BOOKS FOR BEEKEEPING:
For the beekeeper, the enjoyment of taking care of the bees and the multiple streams of income outweigh the occasional bee sting. To learn more about beekeeping check out the