Dee Mason shares with us today about making the choice to become a beekeeper in the city.
Bees in the Backyard
People have been keeping beessince the time of the ancient Egyptians. While the technology has changed therewards remain great and now many city dwellers have caught on to thebeekeeping craze. You might not think it, but beekeeping is fun and safe. Andit can even be profitable. Here’s what you need to know about urban beekeeping.
How Hard is Urban Beekeeping?
First of all, urban beekeepingisn’t difficult. It takes about the same commitment as looking after yourroof garden or window box. Before you start, though, you’ll need to makesure that you are allowed to keep bees in your backyard. Check up on zoningpermissions and, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure the neighbors are ok with ittoo. If someone next door is allergic to bees, you might need to think again.Next, think about the space available for keeping your bees. You don’t need alot for a single colony so if you’ve got a little outdoor space, like a roofdeck, you’ll probably be ok.
What You Need
Next, you’ll need to get some equipment.Beehives need to be kept off the ground to protect them from predators. You canbuy a hive stand or make one yourself out of blocks and planks of wood. You’llneed something to protect the hive from the wind. In an urban setting, you’llprobably have a high wall somewhere that will help with this. And if your beesare hidden from view, it’s less likely that your neighbors will be botheredabout them. Bees need a lot of water, and they like to collect it themselves. Afaucet dripping onto a piece of wood or a plant pot which serves as a mini-pondcan be good options. One thing bees don’t need, which may surprise you, isflowers. Bees are happy to fly for miles to collect pollen and there areusually plenty of flowers around, even in an urban area.
Protecting Yourself from the Bees
You will also need protectivewear. You don’t need always need a full protective suit like the ones yousometimes see on TV, but you will need a hat–to keep bees out of yourhair–and a veil–to keep them away from your face. A light jacket to protectthe arms may also be a good idea. However, if you want to be sure of beingprotected from stings, then the full suit is an option. The most importantthing is to feel comfortable when working with your bees and moving boxes around. Finally, you’llneed something to smoke the bees out when you’re ready to work in the hive.
Many first time urban beekeepersattend a course to find out all they need to know about bee behavior. It’s importantto know how bees nest–in cavities and hollows–where they store honey. Also,where the queen lives and where the eggs are–in the bottom of the hive, whichis the safest area. Your hive needs to replicate this if you are building ityourself, or you can buy a purpose built hive that’s right for your space.
Now you’re set, it’s time tochoose your bees–Italians, Russians, Carnolians or a variation of thosethree–and introduce them to the hive. Once your bees are in, then you’ll havelittle to do in fall and winter, but when the eggs are laid in spring or summeryou’ll need to make sure your bees are protected from mites. Watch out forswarming too, as you could lose half your colony.
Harvesting the Honey
The summer honey harvest is thetime you’ve been waiting for, when you get to reap the rewards of a successfulbeekeeping year. Depending on how much you spend on hives and equipment you maynot make that much the first year, but you’d be surprised how profitable urbanbeekeeping can be. Not every harvest is good, but when you get a goodone, you can have fresh honey for breakfast and bring in some pennies. Yourneighbors will probably be happy to buy from you and you can check out localmarkets as well. Done right, urban beekeeping is profitable, personallyrewarding and safe–try it today!
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