People have been keeping bees for centuries. Certainly, the overwhelming motivator for this has been honey, which is prized all over the world. Honey was a common sweetener long before cane sugar found its way into our diets, and it remains the superior choice.
If you’re looking for a new hobby, one that could be lucrative as well, keeping bees for their honey is a good way to go. It’s an engaging activity that gets you outside, and you could get as much as 100 pounds of honey from a single colony in one year.
Keeping bees will also have a great effect on the health and bounty of your garden. As possibly the most effective pollinating form of insect, bees will help your plants to reproduce by facilitating the fruit and seeding process.
Bees and flowering plants have co-evolved over millions of years. This means that they need each other. By giving a colony of bees a place to call home, you’ll help both your plants and your bees to thrive. Up to 80% better garden productivity can be achieved simply by introducing bees.
Of course, we all know that bees are on the brink of being endangered. This is due to the introduction of toxic metals into the rainwater, growth inhibitive pesticides, and GMO plants which are threatening both agriculture and the entire ecosystem. By being a host to a colony of bees, you can do your part to help our little flying friends endure this threat to their survival.
Keep in mind, as much as 75% of the produce we eat comes from plants that require the aid of the bees in order to grow our food. Plus, considering that they are possibly the most charming and noble creatures in the insect kingdom, who wouldn’t want to help give the bees a leg up?
With all that said, it’s time to discuss how you can start your new bee colony whilst working within a tight budget. Bees are productive little fellows. So, you can be sure they will do their part. Now, let’s learn how to do ours without breaking the bank.
The first step is to build your own hive. You don’t need the latest high tech equipment to give your bees a good home that they can thrive in. A simple “top-bar” style hive provides a naturalistic home for bees that they will take to quite well. It is a v-shaped long box with a series of wooden bars set along the top. The bees will build combs along these top bars. Nearly any type of wood will do the job. Just avoid chemically treated wood, as it can be harmful to your pollinating friends. The most you should have to pay for are some wooden dowels and glue- that is if you haven’t got these laying around already.
You can order what is called a “nuc” online. This is a box of bees, basically. Don’t worry, it’s packaged in a way that the bees will be comfortable with. A package containing a queen will usually cost somewhere around $120, plus shipping and handling. Your nuc will come with instructions on how to “install” your bees, and how to slowly and safely release the queen. You won’t need any special equipment.
The bees can feel a bit put out after having been boxed up and taken on a bumpy ride. You can spray them with a light mist of sugar water as they emerge. This will subdue them and help them to ease gracefully into their new environment- rather than come out punching.
After your bees have been installed in your top bar, cover it up and watch them get to work. They will begin making a hive for the queen to start laying her eggs just as soon as they can. They know they need to protect her and start gathering pollen to make honey as soon as possible. You don’t need to worry about them very much. They’ve been taking care of business handily for millions of years- so try not to interfere more than you absolutely have to.
Once the bees have made themselves at home, they will start producing honey. Within one year, you will be able to begin harvesting honey. You want to let them build up a stockpile. This is to both keep them well supplied and to avoid making them feel threatened.
Soon after that, they’ll start paying their rent with lots of delicious golden honey!
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