Apicultura 101: A How to Guide for Backyard Beekeeping

Bee at a flowerSupplies for the New Apiculture Hobbyist

First of all, put away the misguided notion that bees are aggressive creatures, with the sole intent of stinging anything and anyone in their path. They are social creatures, and will sting only if they perceive a threat. But, if cared for responsibly, they can be a wonderful addition to an urban backyard garden. Knowing how bees behave and how to keep them happy is at the core of apicultura, or in English, beekeeping. With knowledge and attention, a fledgling beekeeper can expect to produce 50-200 pounds of fresh honey by the end of the first season.

how to keep bees In a nutshell, a beekeeper is someone who keeps bees, whether for honey production, garden health, or as pets. A healthy colony will nourish a garden by pollinating flowers while collecting nectar to bring back to the hive. There, the nectar is converted to honey as a food source. Beekeepers can then extract a sustainable amount of honey for their own use. If maintaining an urban hive, this often
means sharing with the neighbors to keep them happy as well.

What To Know Before Starting
how to keep bees
Urban Farm Magazine recommends starting by researching the local ordinances concerning the hobby. Many towns and cities don't regulate beekeeping, but a call down to the county extension office will settle that matter fairly quickly. The next step is to seek out a local beekeeping club to join. The resources available there will be the deciding factor in having a robust colony of honey-making machines or 20,000 little black and yellow corpses scattered about the garden. Apiculture, like bee behavior, is a social environment, and finding a mentor through the club will be relatively simple. A mentor can offer advice on buying a queen and colony, give instructions on the proper use of equipment, and show how to responsibility collect honey from the hive.

Beekeeping Equipment

tips on bee keeping The initial investment varies, but can fall between $200 and $500 depending on the equipment selected to begin. Often times, a search of Craig's List will unearth new and used equipment, but be very wary of buying used beehives. With the spread of Colony Collapse Disorder, a new beekeeper doesn't want to infect a new colony with a failed beekeeper's problem. Start with new hives, or use verified-clean ones gained through your trustworthy contacts at the beekeeping club. Protective gear is another acquisition to make before setting up the hives. At the minimum, a mesh faced veil and a sturdy pair of gloves will suffice, but to ensure full protection, a full-body, English-style bee suit is recommended. One of the top-tier supply companies is Brushy Mountain in North Carolina, and their mail order service is exceptional.

Keeping Bees in the Backyard
bee keeping
The key to keeping bees in the backyard is communication with neighbors. Most won't care, but any random protests can be assuaged by educating them in bee behavior. It also doesn't hurt to give neighbors free honey every once in a while. For an urban backyard garden where bees are kept, it is important to have a tall fence surrounding the property at a recommended height of around 8 feet. Bees fly at a level height while cruising between forage spots, and having them start well above average head height when leaving the garden ensures they won't bump into anyone. As for the bees themselves, choose a gentle species with established honey productivity. Many first time hobbyists begin with Buckfast bees, as recommended by seasoned beekeepers. The hives should be placed out of the way of traffic patterns to leave the hives as undisturbed as possible. A great place is in the corner against the fence, where the bees have direct access to the garden and don't have to cross the
BBQ patio to gather nectar.

Knowing The Beehive
These colony structures come in many styles and designs, but as with mousetraps, the simplest forms are the ones that work best. A beehive is made up of stacked boxes called supers with controlled access within the interior, where cells are framed in for bees to build honey combs. The boxes offer the right amount of ventilation for cooling in the Summer, and for regulating heat in the Winter. There are many plans for DIY hives, but for the first timer, it's suggested to purchase on the advice of a mentor. Once in place, add the new colony and begin to enjoy the benefits.