Saving bees one hive at a time: The basics of backyard beehives
Scientists and environmentalists have been warning the public for years that honeybees are disappearing at alarming rates.
Scientists were initially uncertain about what was decimating bee populations. Even though no single cause is to blame, data has pointed to pesticide use and the mysterious colony collapse disorder, which is a name given to the dwindling colonies seen worldwide.
National Geographic News says bees are essential because of their roles as pollinators. Agriculture industries rely on honeybees — especially managed honeybees — to keep commercial crops pollinated and productive. Estimates indicate that roughly one-third of U.S. crops depend on honeybees — accounting for more than $15 billion in crop production. Without bees, the costs of everything from blueberries to apples to broccoli would rise, as farmers would have to use a different, more expensive pollination method.
Even though backyard beehives or bee farms may not be crucial to consumer agriculture, bringing healthy colonies back to various areas is beneficial to the environment overall. The art of beekeeping has become an important endeavor, and just about anyone with some time and resources can start their apiary.
• Start by studying bees. Interested beekeepers can begin their journey by reading all they can on beekeeping. The American Bee Journal or backyard beekeeping books and articles are great places to start. Local beekeeping associations also are invaluable resources for information on local bee species and traits.
• Know the laws. It's important to get the go-ahead from local authorities before introducing bees into the community. By checking city or town ordinances, potential beekeepers will know how many hives are allowed and which type of property sizes are amenable and allowable.
• Get the right supplies. Research can help prospective beekeepers understand the type of equipment they will need. One can purchase this equipment, but some beekeeping organizations may be willing to lend or rent it to interested parties. Hive boxes, bottom boards, a veil, a jacket, a smoker, and a top feeder are just some of the supplies needed.
• Order bees. Bees can be acquired from other beekeeping enthusiasts or can be ordered online. The bees will need to consist of the queen, drones and worker bees. According to the resource Bees Brothers, a starter set of bees is called a "nuc." Bee suppliers start selling in the winter for spring swarms.
• Place the hive. It's essential to set up hives away from foot traffic. In addition, face hives away from strong winds, with the ideal directions being east and south. Hives need sunshine and some shade on summer afternoons, advises BackYardHive.
With time, homeowners can become successful beekeepers and do their part to replenish much-needed bee colonies.