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Backyard Apiaries and Beekeeping

Updated on May 15, 2016
relache profile image

Raye gardens organically, harvests rainwater, strives to eat locally, and honors the gods from her home in the Pacific Northwest.

Have you ever wanted to have your own bees?

Beekeeping evolved as agriculture became more of an important part of society and a main source of food. Bees are the primary way that many plants and crops get pollinated, and so humans learned to culture and encourage bees as a way of improving and expanding their food supply.

In addition to pollination, bees are a source of honey and beeswax, both of which are commodities unto themselves. As diseases and parasites have increasingly had negative effects on the agricultural bee population, the keeping of bees has become more important. Many cities allow backyard beekeeping and there's a renaissance of city apiaries in progress, alongside urban chickens and goats.

Happy bee habitat

The ceanothus in my yard is a bee festival when it blooms each spring.  Multiple bees species arrive to eagerly collect pollen.
The ceanothus in my yard is a bee festival when it blooms each spring. Multiple bees species arrive to eagerly collect pollen. | Source

Why Keep Bees?

Bees are kept not only as crop producers but as garden assistants. Although they will sting humans in defense, they bring a lot of benefits versus threats.

Pollination - bees are the main pollinators for agricultural crops and gardens. By keeping bees, you can help insure that your flowers and vegetables have ample pollinators. People who keep bees often report how the density of blooms in their yards and nearby neighbors increase.

Honey - the main crop produced by bees is honey. It's a by-product that results from when bees digest and process pollen they collect from plants. Propolis (a bee "glue") and royal jelly are also edible elements produced by bees.

Beeswax - useful in natural cosmetics and for candle-making, the wax honeycomb made by the bees to hold honey can be used once the honey is harvested.

Learn About Beekeeping

The Backyard Beekeeper - Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden
The Backyard Beekeeper - Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden

You don't want a simple "dummy" guide when it comes to bees. These are sophisticated, livng creatures who interact with our food systems. A revised and updated guide, something kept relevant, is going to be be better for you and your bees.

Please note, learning beekeeping from just a book is possible but mentoring and guidance from a local organization of bee experts is what you really want to go with your book knowledge.

 

Getting Started with Bees

First of all, you need to check your local ordinances in regards to keeping bees. Many urban areas do allow for the keeping of apiaries, however there are often rules about how many beehives can be kept and how far the hives must be from property lines. It might also be necessary to register your hives.

If it is possible for you to legally keep bees where you live, you then need to educate yourself about beekeeping. There are many dozen forms that beehives can take, variations in the types of bees that are kept domestically, diseases to learn about and much more. Start-up costs for keeping bees is often somewhere between $500 to $800, depending on what type of gear and equipment you are investing in and how many hives you intend to keep.

Beekeeping is a skill that is most often learned via apprenticeship and many states have official beekeeping guild or organizations that not only serve professionals but offer educational programs and apprenticeship opportunities to beginners.

A bee on dandelions
A bee on dandelions | Source

Your Main Bee Tool

KINGLAKE Steel J Hook Bee Hive Tool Frame Lifter and Scraper,Beekeeping Equipment, 10-1/2-Inch
KINGLAKE Steel J Hook Bee Hive Tool Frame Lifter and Scraper,Beekeeping Equipment, 10-1/2-Inch

This is the main tool humans have invented for doing any kind of opening, prying, separating, scraping and working with conventional hives made of stacked honey supers (boxes). It is the right shape, size and thickness for all the tasks and jobs.

 

Beginning Beekeeping

Cautions About Keeping Bees

Allergic Reactions - The number one thing that might prevent you from keeping bees is if you or anyone in your family is allergic to bee stings. Although there is protective gear, you must presume that if you are going to handle and manage bees, you will be stung at some point. Many beekeepers report that over time they seem to build up a tolerance to stings, but if you are medically-sensitive or have known allergic reactions, that's most likely not going to happen.

Kids and Pets - If you have small children or energetic pets, it might also not be a good idea to keep bees. Both kids and animals can't have safety explained to them clearly, and either one colliding accidentally with a hive could result in a tragic accident. If you do have children or pets, but want to keep bees, you'll want to make sure that you have ample room, and can arrange so that play areas or outdoor runs do not come anywhere near the hives.

Neighbors - Sometimes neighbors can get nervous about people keeping bees.  Check with them to make sure neither of the cautions mentioned above is the reason, as you don't want a legal battle with the folks next door.  And again, be sure there's enough space so that your hives aren't right up against a property line.

Benefits of Beekeeping

The biggest benefit that comes from beekeeping is one that many people don't think of right away. It's the pollination to your yard or garden that comes from the bees hunting for their food.

Secondary to this is the products that humans get from bees. Honey is the main resource that people get from bees, but if you have a hive, you will also be able to get a fairly good supply of wax. This can be used for a variety of things, but making candles is probably the favorite use of beeswax.

What's the Buzz? - Comments and Contributions

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    • tritrain profile image

      And Drewson 

      7 years ago from United States

      I am very seriously looking at beekeeping as a hobby, and then possibly as a business (selling honey products).

      I've always been fascinated with bees anyway and value them highly for all they do for nature.

      I have much to learn!

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 

      8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Bees are cute, brave, loyal, fast, hard working, clean , neat, and Honey is great on pancakes and smoke sausage. I like Bees , but they hurt me when they sting my butt. God Bless.

    • Nature Girl 101 profile image

      Nature Girl 101 

      8 years ago from Where the Wild things are.

      What a wonderful informative post about beekeeping! As a former beekeeper I must say this hub was very educational for anyone desiring to become a beekeeper. Keep up the good work!

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Bees have been a fascination of mine since I was a child. I have been stung many times, but I am not bothered much by them. I have wondered about bee-keeping and your hub gave me lots of interesting information. I also enjoyed the video. I have warned people that our bees are in trouble and no one knows why for sure. But one thing is clear; they are vital to crops and our gardens.

      Thanks for the great hub

    • fits4life profile image

      Cherri Brown-Jett 

      8 years ago from Richmond

      I find this article very interesting. Before I read it, I had absolutely no knowledge of bees other than they could sting you. Thank you for discussing allergies also.

    • profile image

      Cazza285 

      8 years ago

      Hi,

      I thought your page was well written and very interesting.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Well Relache, I would have to overcome my instinct to do this, but I believe that honey is yet another "miracle" food, especially honey from your local area. This article you've written is encouraging, I hope people read it and understand that they are not pests. Whenever I see someone using one of those yard defoggers, I dread what they're doing to the insects, not to mention themselves, and me!

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 

      8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      A great hub and very informative.

    • KeithTax profile image

      Keith Schroeder 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Relache, I am building my own bee hives this spring. You hub in not only informative, but timely. Anyone looking to keep bees needs to review the your listed cautions.

    • Georzetta profile image

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Love bees. Love honey. Great movie about bees-Ulee's Gold. A good hub.

    • dgreen23 profile image

      dgreen23 

      8 years ago from Jonesboro, GA

      Wow this was great information. I love honey! I use it because it is great for good health and it helps you lose weight as well with cinnamon powder.

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 

      8 years ago

      We are getting bees this spring, thanks for such a helpful hub.

    • myawn profile image

      myawn 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting. I love honey it tastes good and is good for you. but I'm allergic to beestrings I swell up.So I can't raise thm.

    • joeleighton profile image

      joeleighton 

      8 years ago

      Very informative & well written.

      Keep 'em coming.

      Regards, Joe

    • Cathy profile image

      Cathy 

      8 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Hey Relache - nice Hub about beekeeping. My uncle in France kept bees for years and was a member of the local apiary club. Beekeeping is a worldwide hobby and when one area is being affected by bee death, word travels throughout the world as it is very vital information.

      I used to help him spin the frames in the barrel and we'd eat the honey fresh. Next day was even better as it would have solidified into a whitish, spreadable consistency, the ONLY way to eat honey!

      When he passed away, though I couldn't be in France for the funeral, bees swarmed around me that day as I was washing the car, even riding on the buffer as I buffed the car! I was over 6000 miles away and I feel my uncle was with me, assuring me of his presence still, via his bee buddies.

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 

      8 years ago

      A great read. Bees are really fascinating insects and not only does honey taste great it is also good for soothing sore throats and the pollen in the honey is said to help reduce hayfever. This is why eating local honey works best - it has the right pollen in it. It is also important to remember that honey shouldn't be given to children under the age of one.

    • relache profile imageAUTHOR

      Raye 

      8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Darlene, I have some advice about your comment that bees "love you." They are drawn by smells, so if you wish to not have so many hover around you, it's most likely due to perfume or some other scent that's on you. Cut back or eliminate that and you should notice you are less attractive to bees.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      I enjoyed reading this hub, very informative and a great style of writing. Personally, I am not thrilled when bees start circling me...for some reason they love me and I jump up and run...LOL but the truth is they are an important part of the life cycle.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      8 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Bees are an essential creature for pollination. What a mystery of the world is!

    • cyoung35 profile image

      Chad Young 

      8 years ago from Corona, CA

      Very interesting, I love honey and I would like to know why many bees are dissappearing.

    • relache profile imageAUTHOR

      Raye 

      8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I'm in the process of learning as much as I can with the idea that, not this summer but maybe in the next one or two after, I'd like to have a hive or two.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 

      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      WOW I just got a new hive this summer and this was very interesting. Thanks :)Peace :)Katie

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      8 years ago from Central Texas

      There are several bee keepers in our little county - local honey is said to be good for allergies. Thanks for this informative Hub. Best, Sis

    • entertianmentplus profile image

      entertianmentplus 

      8 years ago from United States

      Very interesting.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Thank you for this ! :-)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      A very interesting hub with a subject out of the usual. Thank you very much

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