A Beginners Guide to Backyard Beekeeping
Guest contribution by Rocio Espinoza from porch.com
Whether you’ve been stung by one or not, bees are crucial to the world; without them, your favorite veggies and fruits wouldn’t grow. Bees do not only produce the luscious honey you sweeten your meals with, but they also are in charge of pollination. Pollination leads to the production of – as previously mentioned – fruits and seeds that will birth more plants necessary for life on the planet. Though their level of importance is being spread, they’re still rapidly becoming an endangered species; honeybees are being afflicted by habitat loss and electromagnetic radiation from cell phones that can damage their ability to find their way home.
Backyard beekeeping is not only exciting but also requires a significant amount of knowledge to maintain a healthy honeybee population. The interest has grown exponentially since people are looking for healthier and more sustainable ways of living. Having an apiary at home will make your garden look like an Eden and give you succulent honey that will seem crafted for the gods of Olympus. Quality unlike any other. This golden, raw, unpasteurized honey is far tastier and healthier than grocery store honey, which is pasteurized — a process that kills many of the beneficial nutrients in honey.
If becoming an amateur apiary is on your current wish list, and it’s something you would like to pursue seriously, this guide will serve as an outline of what’s involved in starting a bee colony and how to get the most out of it.
Is beekeeping right for you?
Having an at-home bee colony and taking care of those babies is fun, but it’s no five-second task. To get started, you’ll need a certain amount of knowledge on the subject, and you’ll need to invest some time and money to get your colony up and running. Before diving into beekeeping, make sure you:
Learn the A, B, C of backyard beekeeping
The A to Z involved in beekeeping: Selecting hives and bees, managing the colony, harvesting honey, and keeping your bees healthy. Each part of the country has a different prime time for starting a hive, depending on the weather and geography. There’s a lot to know beforehand, so look for information from reliable sources. Are there any beekeepers or beekeeping organizations in your community? Does your university’s extension have information and resources on beekeeping in your region? Reach out and ask for advice. Having experienced apiculturists in your contact list could come in handy.
Check your city’s laws
Before you invest a dime, check your city’s laws on the matter. Most cities have specific ordinances on keeping an apiary, and sometimes you will require a permit to practice beekeeping.
Consider your neighbors
Some states ask you to have your neighbors’ consent before moving forward with beekeeping, considering that they or their family members might have an allergic reaction to bee stings, which can be lethal. Ask your neighbors if they’d mind, and if they seem a little hesitant, try to win them over with the promise of free organic honey straight from the hive.
Find ample space
The kind of hive you wish to create will determine the size of the space you’ll need for it. A general rule of thumb is to have from six to eight feet of space around your hive. This gives your bees enough space to fly around the hive without getting in crashing into one another, but if your space doesn’t come in with these extra dimensions and is on the smaller side, placing a tall fence facing your hive will encourage the bees to fly upward.
Prepare to spend some time and money
A two-hive setup is ideal for a new beekeeper. Including the hives, bees, protective gear, and supplies, expect to spend above $1,000 on your first year as an apiculturist. You’ll, most likely, need to spend a weekly hour on tending bees. Keeping bees is an intricate pastime, and many beekeepers confess that the more experienced they become, the deeper they fall down the beekeeping rabbit hole and end up spending an excessive amount of time reading, researching, and taking classes about all aspects of this hobby.
How to build your hive
All bee colonies start with woodenware, which comprises the hive’s bottom and body and the top cover. With proper care, these bee boxes should last from one up to two decades.
The Langstroth hive is the most common hive and a favorite amongst new beekeepers. The Langstroth is a series of stackable boxes, each with square frames for bees to build a comb.
Where to locate your beehives
Position the hives in your back yard as far away as possible from the patio, play equipment, and other highly utilized spaces. Locate the hives in such a way that the openings will face south, east, or southeast; in the morning, the warm sunshine gets the bees moving, and in the evening, cooler shade brings relief when it’s time to rest.
Crucial beekeeping equipment and supplies
Hive tool: A hive tool is like a crowbar for your beehive. It’s used to separate the hive boxes or lids, which get stuck together due to beeswax.
Smoker: They relax the bees, making it easier for you to get in there to extract honeycomb or do maintenance.
Scrapers: This helps scrapes away the built-up beeswax of your beehive.
Uncapping scratcher: To release honey, the comb needs to be uncapped using one of these tools.
Honey extractor: These are used to extract your honey from the comb. They come in various styles, and you can choose from manual or automated extractors.
Beekeeping Haute Couture
Veil: A veil protects your stunning face and neck from any bratty bees and their painful stingers.
Gloves: A pair of long gloves staves off stings when you’re handling your hive.
Beekeeping suit: The iconic, white one-piece we all associate with beekeepers protects your body from bee stings. A long-sleeved jacket and pants will also do the trick.
How to start
A starter colony, also called a nucleus -or nuc – is the easiest way to populate your hives. A nucleus colony is a little hive containing various honey and brood frames, plus one queen and enough workers to expand the hive. You can relocate the small frames to your larger hive boxes, and the colony will build up quite swiftly since the eggs, larvae, and honey stores are included.
Honey bees have three social ranks:
Queen bee: Each hive has one queen who takes care of all the colony’s reproduction; laying all of the eggs and choosing when to lay drones and workers.
Worker bees: The backbone of the hive; 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 or 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.
Harvesting and using honey
After getting everything on the list, you might be wondering when you can commence harvesting. Typically, you ought to wait until around 90 percent of the honeycomb’s frame cells are capped. For nowadays beekeepers, a refractometer can be used to test the moisture content of the honey — harvest it when it reaches 18.6 percent.
You should tirelessly investigate harvesting honey before you extract your first batch. In a nutshell, you’ll rock your protective gear, chill out the bees, remove the comb from your hive and take it to your workstation. With the uncapping scratcher, you’ll remove the wax cap from the comb, which can be used to make candles or for homemade cosmetics. With your buddy, the honey extractor, you’ll gently remove the honey from the comb, leaving the latter pristine and ready to go back to the hive. The liquid honey will settle in a container for a few days; then it’s ready to bottle and relish!
Benefits of honey
The nectar of the gods you now possess, but what to do with it? Honey is flooding with phytonutrients, which boost the immune system and fight against selected diseases. These all-mighty phytonutrients are behind the antioxidant properties of the golden liquid, such assist in protecting your body from cell damage due to free radicals. As a prebiotic, honey promotes good bacteria growth in the gut for better digestive health, and its antifungal and antibacterial qualities make it a superb emergency balsam for wounds.
Home uses for honey
Honey can do more than sweeten your meals:
• Excellent moisturizer for dry skin — including your scalp — thanks to its ability to retain water.
• Honey’s antioxidant and antifungal qualities may aid in treating acne, pimples, and blemishes.
• With a smear of honey, you’ll soothe minor burns and promote its healing.
• Classic: Honey in your tea for coughs or throat soreness.
• Beeswax can be utilized to make lip balm, deodorant, or candles; such a lush dream.
Beekeeping embodies with this world is all about; supporting each other. Welcome bees into your backyard, and help magnify a decreasing population while enjoying the delectable result of a bee’s hard work.