Just what does a person need to know to get into urban beekeeping? Well, according to specialists on the subject, one or two bee colonies is the ideal start for backyard beekeeping. That may not sound like much but when you realize that a single hive can produce up to one hundred pounds of harvestable honey annually, well, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Urban beekeeping can be very rewarding in more ways than one. It can keep the beekeeper happy in honey and a bit of change in his pocket as well.
When a novice beekeeper goes the two hive route, you get the best of both worlds. You can build one hive from scratch just to gain the valuable experience. And, before you begin that project, you can order a starter hive kit from a reputable dealer to have on hand to help guide you in your DIY urban beekeeping project.
And don’t feel discouraged if you’ve never held a tool in your hand. A hive is really just a wooden box that holds frames that slide in. It has a bottom and a top that can either be completely removed or hinged so it can open wide. And you don’t have to mill the parts yourself. Just buy on hive that is not assembled and another that is put together for you.
To get started in your backyard beekeeping venture, timing is everything. Bees live according to the seasons. It is very important to do certain things at certain times and that includes when to set up your new hive and introduce a starter bee colony.
Place your bee order in the fall. Delivery will be scheduled to arrive in the spring, probably around April. While you wait for their arrival get your hives and equipment in order. Decide on your beehive location and go ahead and set it outside. This will give you time to view it at different times of the day and make certain that it is in the best spot to keep your bees happy.
Before bees arrive you may even want to scout out local urban beekeeping organizations and join one. Almost every county and state has a beekeeping association as well. They are a great resource and support system. Valuable information is readily available to help guide beginners to success. Take advantage of the time before bees arrive to read as much material as possible and learn all you can about backyard beekeeping.
You want to be able to cultivate a strong colony that will propagate and grow to a thriving bee population. You may start out with only 10,000 bees from your starter colony order but by summer’s end you could have close to 75,000 bees living in the hive.
Urban beekeeping is not only rewarding but fascinating. You will discover that although bees are very busy creatures who fiercely protect their domain, they are actually quite docile when not feeling threatened. Even when they swarm, although it may seem a frightful thing, if you keep your wits about you, you will realize they are swarming not because they are out on the attack but are actually out and about on a vigorous forage mission.
When you see a swarm that’s a good thing. That means the bees are energized and engaging in highly productive behavior. Don’t be surprised if a single hive produces well over 100 pounds of surplus honey in a year. They will need about sixty pounds of honey to winter on but you get the rest. What in the world can a backyard beekeeper do with 100 pounds of honey? Well, you eat some, share some and sell the rest!
To feed your bees well and be successful in backyard beekeeping, plant a variety of nectar and pollen producing plants, vegetable and ornamental alike. In the fall and winter restock the flower beds and garden plot with seasonally appropriate plants. Urban beekeeping practices are perfectly in tune with urban gardening practices.
And while you are making sure that there are plenty of plants for the bees to forage, don’t forget that they need water, too. If you don’t provide fresh water to your bees they may be forced to seek it elsewhere. It’s preferable that they don’t buzz over to the neighbor’s house and see if Fido has a water bowl on the back porch. Put out a few saucers or shallow bowls of water in various spots in the garden and that should be all it takes to keep them satisfied and hydrated.
So, you see, urban beekeeping, or backyard beekeeping, whatever you want to call it, is really not that complicated. Once you understand the needs of your bees and the rhythm of their life, you’ll find they are quite easy to accommodate.