Home: Honey Bees
Home Projects: Honey Bees
Honey bees are true heroes. They give humans fruits and vegetables to eat. Without them our ecology would be quite different. Bees fill an important ecological niche. Assuming the environment the bees live in is balanced, they prosper at the same time they benefit us. Whether we know it or not, we are in partnership with the bees.
People keep bees for several reasons. You know that your delicious honey is local. Bees roam about three and a half miles from their hive for nectar and water. This means that their honey is local and we all want to support local industry! This also means that your bees are helping pollinate your garden and the many gardens around you, allowing friends and neighbors to grow their own healthy produce. People with allergies may benefit from eating local honey and pollen as well.
Things to consider about getting bees for your yard:
- Neighborly communication and education about what to expect from the bees in your yard, besides that jar of honey that goes to all good neighbors each harvest.
- Participation in your local honeybee association, where you may find mentors for beginner beekeepers.
The rest comes from watching your bees, to see how things are developing in the hive throughout the year and what the process looks like.
Here are some simple steps in getting your first beehive:
1) Take a Bee Kind Class www.beekind.com (Located in Sebastopol)
2) They carry packages for beginners that include everything for your first hive — get one
3) Attend meetings at the Sonoma County Beekeeper’s Organization, www.sonomabees.org
4) Follow the hive set up process learned from steps 1-3
5) Maintenance primarily consists of opening the hive up to check for hive health and activity every couple of weeks
6) Harvest the honey in preparation for winter
What you should know about the life of your hive:
In the winter colonies depopulate. Unfortunately, hive death or colony collapse disorder can occur. We had to start over one year, but now we have four healthy boxes of bees. Swarming happens. It’s the way in nature that new colonies are made. Half of the residents leave with a new queen to populate a new location. If you do a good job at hive management you can help them split and move into a new super (or box) in the same hive. You may get stung. If you are allergic to bees, this hobby might not be for you. If hive tending is not for you, there are many local people who grow honey and sell it at farmer’s markets and roadside stands.
Observe your bees frequently, as they are fascinating to watch as they work as one large, some say even democratic, colony. It’s interesting; many people think decisions are made by the queen bee, but many decisions are made by the workers. They demonstrate the complexity and intelligence of nature. They even train their young with orientation flights.
There are many benefits from bees and their honey. When you have bees you are helping local growers. We get more fruit and vegetables out of our backyard garden since we began keeping bees… and oh, the flowers!! So many flowers! It is also very rewarding to be able to give honey away as gifts (or you can sell it). Beeswax is a wonderful by-product and it makes sweet, warm-smelling candles. In addition to possibly helping with allergies, the healing properties of honey include antiseptic properties (which have been used since ancient times in Egyptian tombs).
Having bees is a delight. You can spend hours watching bees come and go. Enjoy endless hours of entertainment watching nature at work can give you perspective on the complex pattern of life. And while you are contemplating, you can enjoy a delicious spoonful of local nectar.
By Lyn Cessna