I think I’ve already shed some light on why I got into the beekeeping business. I don’t think I told you just how many times I was stung by bees during my beekeeping activities. My mind just went blank at the very thought. I lost track of my thoughts and no longer knew how I was going to proceed with this post. Then it came back to me. I wanted to tell you that it took me quite a while for me to actually get started in the beekeeping business. I was naïve in the beginning in thinking that there was not much to it.
PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM THE STINGS
It seems to be everyone’s biggest concern, but it need not be. Please always remember that bees will only sting you if they feel threatened by you. They are not malevolent creatures and will never willingly attack you. But as a natural beekeeper, you will be infringing on their natural habitat while you do your work. So, it makes natural sense to cover yourself appropriately. I’d wear a jumpsuit if I were you. Attach a veil to a lightweight jacket so that you can protect your face and hair. Then wear this jacket over your jumpsuit.
MODELING YOUR HIVE NATURALLY
First of all, you can purchase ready-made or easy to assembly hives. But since you are that keen about your hobby, why not learn how to make your own hive. It can be done. And who better to teach you than the bees themselves. Try and get to existing hives and observe and take notes. You can also research the most appropriate constructions for your backyard. In the interim, note that bees typically store their honey on top of the hive and around its exterior. Brood food is stored just below the honey. So, at this stage, you’ll be looking to build cavities for the bees to deposit their honey.
FIRST CHECK WITH THE NEIGHBORS
This is quite important, and you ignore this advice at your peril. Please first check with your neighbors if it’s ok for you to keep a hive in your yard. While most folks will be ok with this environmentally-sustainable idea, there may be some who have allergies to bees. Very importantly, check the municipal regulations on domestic beekeeping. There will be some that will forbid this, but where it is allowed, regulations will be in place for you to follow. To protect the neighbors from accidental stings, you can build hedges around your hives which will require the bees to fly above human height in order to reach the hive.
PROTECT YOUR BEES FROM PESTS AND PREDATORS
This is a rule of thumb. Keep your hive above ground level. The purpose of doing this is to protect your bees from predators and pests. This is also what constitutes a strong and secure hive. Having the hive higher off the ground also makes things easier for you. You can stand comfortably without having to bend while performing your tasks.
THE STRONGER, THE BETTER
While on the subject of strength, stability and colony security, I may as well add these important notes as well. I would suggest keeping a small colony of no more than twenty thousand bees. I say this because your yard is likely to be a lot smaller than the bees’ natural environment. In essence, a typical population can reach up to about seventy thousand. From where I’m sitting, I would think that it’s a tad unmanageable for us hobby-crafters at this stage. Don’t collect any honey during the autumn months because this is surplus stock for the bees during the winter months.
USING A SMOKER
The smoker is an essential tool for the beekeeper. It is a cylinder with bellows attached. A slow-burning fire inside of the cylinder contains smoker fuel and pine needles. The intention is to create a gentle puff of smoke in the direction of the hive to create the illusion amongst the bees that their hive is on fire. Many of them will leave the hive temporarily, thus allowing you to peacefully get on with your tasks without concerns about bee stings.
THE KIND OF BEES I LIKE
The Italian honey bee is the recommended bee for beginning beekeepers. I instinctively and naively believed previously that I would much rather build my hive and then let nature take its course. In other words, let the bees find their own way to their new home in a friendly environment which I believed my garden was. But reality bites. The chances are slim that a small swarm of bees are going to come knocking on your door if you’re living in an urban environment. The Italian honey bee is a docile creature.
They are highly productive and easy to manage. Dealing with the realities of urban bees, by now you will know that you’ll have to purchase a small swarm from a specialist in bees. And the most common of those sold to domestic beekeepers is indeed the Italian honeybee.
So, there you have it. I’ve now given you a small checklist of things to consider before making your first forays into beekeeping. If you really want to make the most of this most rewarding and noblest of hobbies, I would recommend patience and the gentle art of taking your time. Why rush things when you might be doing this for the rest of your natural life. Believe me, this may well happen. It’s that stimulating. Take your time reading and researching as much as you can on the weird and natural wonders of the bees’ world.
Study existing organic products and take time to appreciate honey’s inherent and health benefits. This can only warm you up to more appreciation of bees and help to cultivate a love for one of earth’s most essential insect species. Learn about insect species in general, acknowledging their place in the ecosystems of this world. And then slowly start building your very first hive. Who knows, perhaps more will follow in later years.