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Backyard Beekeeping

If you want to go Beesponsible in a big way, consider becoming a backyard beekeeper and creating a space for bees to live and thrive. It requires hard work and serious attention to care for bees in the best way possible, but you might just have what it takes. So is backyard beekeeping right for you? Consider these before you decide:

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Laws

First things first, contact your local government to make sure they allow beekeeping where you live. Some municipalities require special permits or hive registrations, while others have no restrictions.

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Allergies

Beekeepers spend a lot of time with bees, so naturally they get stung every now and then. Just part of the deal. So if you’re severely allergic to insect bites and stings, you may want to rethink this decision. However, if you react mildly, you have much less to worry about — ask your doctor about an EpiPen or other precautions, and always keep a cell phone nearby for good measure. If you don’t know whether you’re allergic or not, consider getting tested by an allergist.

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Courtesy

Common courtesy goes a long way. Before you start beekeeping, talk with your neighbors. If any of their family members are allergic to bee stings or if they have young children who play outside, you’ll want to make sure they don’t mind your plans. If avid gardeners live nearby, they’ll likely welcome your bees and their pollinating services.

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Location

You’ll need easy access to your beehive year-round. Beehives need a level location that receives some sun during parts of the day and is sheltered from strong winds. See below for more info on choosing the right backyard site.

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Money

When you add up all the tools and supplies, you can expect to spend more than $500 in your first year — and that’s just for 1 hive. (Most expert beekeepers suggest starting with 2 hives.) After that, you’ll still have ongoing costs, such as harvesting equipment or new queens.

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Muscles

Believe it or not, beekeeping requires some strength, especially when it comes to handling hives. Are your muscles up to it? Some hives can weigh up to 80 pounds during harvest time.

Choosing Your Hive

While several types of hives exist for backyard beekeepers, we recommend the Langstroth hive, especially for beginners. The Langstroth hive consists of boxes, with frames inside, set up in a stack. The bees build a brood nest at the bottom of the stack and fill the top boxes with honey. You can buy and research Langstroth hives many places online, but here are the basic components:

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Bottom Base

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Deep Box with Frames

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Excluder

(which keeps the queen and her brood at the bottom of the hive)

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Medium Box with Frames

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Inner Cover

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Outer Cover

GET YOUR BEES

The Italian bee is the most recommended species for beginning beekeepers. Aside from their calm behavior, Italian bees are also great producers of honey. There are several different ways to get your bees. Also, do an online search for local beekeepers in your area who can help you get started.

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Bee Packages

Purchasing a bee package from a breeder provides you with a queen bee and usually 2 to 4 pounds of bees. The bees come in a shoebox-sized wooden container with screens on both sides, and a smaller separated box contains the queen. Unrelated to the rest of the bees, the queen bee must slowly and carefully be introduced and accepted by the colony.

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Nucleus Colonies

A great choice for beginning beekeepers, nucleus colonies (or “nucs”) are fully established mini-colonies containing frames, a queen and the naturally occurring number of drones and workers. You’ll move these frames into your own hive where they’ll have more space to grow into a full-sized colony.

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Swarms

Trapping a swarm can be an optimal way to obtain bees, as long as you enlist the help of an experienced beekeeper. As these bees come from your area, they’re already used to and likely to survive in your climate.

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Baiting

Not as difficult as it sounds, you can build simple bait hives to lure a bee colony to move in on its own. Like catching a swarm, baiting bees is a very beneficial option as you attract hearty, local bees perfectly adapted to your area.

LEARN MORE

We hope this gives a good overview of what you’ll need and what to expect as a backyard beekeeper. But educating yourself is key to keeping your bees safe and your hobby satisfying. We encourage reading and learning as much as you can before you start, and best of all, connect with a local beekeeping mentor to help you along the way.

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