If you’re interested in bee conservation and helping declining bee populations, the most impactful thing you can do is create a pesticide-free, wildflower-rich habitat. But if your main goal is to harvest your own honey, then consider becoming a backyard beekeeper. It requires hard work and serious attention to care for honeybees and create a space for them to live and thrive, but you might just have what it takes — and the rewards are sweet! Consider these factors when deciding if backyard beekeeping is right for you:
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:
(which keeps the queen and her brood at the bottom of the hive)
CHOOSE YOUR SITE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.