Why Backyard Beekeeping is Good for You and Your Home
If you’ve ever spoken to a backyard beekeeper you’ve probably already heard this, but – you should raise honeybees! No, not every home is going to meet the requirements for a hive, but most people have the time, resources, and skills necessary to get started with their own backyard beehive, even if they’re allergic to bees.
As a backyard beekeeper (or more accurately, assistant-to-the-beekeeper – my mom), I can attest that the benefits of beekeeping far outweigh the time requirement and low costs. They improve your (and your neighbors!) gardens, allow you to get closer to nature, and of course provide delicious raw honey. Take a peek below to see what the buzz is all about and whether a backyard hive is right for you.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Beekeeping has become increasingly popular in recent years, with people swarming to establish hives in their yards, gardens, and even atop skyscrapers.
As a homeowner, you will probably start seeing the benefits of your bees right away, as flowering trees and plants in your yard grow larger, stronger, and more vibrant. Indeed, one of my mom’s neighbors who grows grapes attests that her harvests nearly doubled since we started beekeeping.
Beekeeping does not require a huge time commitment. Beyond the initial setup, most of your time will be spent simply checking in on the hive’s health. The biggest chunk of your time will likely be the end-of-summer honey harvest.
See? I didn’t forget about the honey! The honey produced by your bees will, for the most part, not resemble store-bought honey. Raw, unpasteurized honey is thicker, tastier, and flavored by whatever flowers you have nearby. If you live near a field of wild lavender or a grove of peach trees, you’ll notice a floral or fruity note to your honey. Some studies even suggest that local honey contains local pollen and acts as an immunization against local allergens.
In just a summer, one hive can produce anywhere from 50-100 lbs. of honey. Talk about great neighbor gifts for the holidays!
“Beeyond” the Backyard
You’ve probably seen the alarming facts and figures surrounding colony collapse disorder (CCD) – heck, you may have even seen it on a box of Cheerios. And while causes and blame are still being debated and assigned, the fact remains that the number of honeybees is decreasing worldwide.
As so much of the agricultural industry (not to mention wild plant species the world over) relies on bees to pollinate crops, bees’ dwindling numbers are cause for alarm.
Luckily, backyard beekeeping can help! Not unlike capturing and captive breeding the California condor, beekeeping in your backyard allows you to provide a happy, healthy environment where honeybees can thrive. One of the suspected causes of CCD—pesticides—is typically only prevalent in rural areas and absent from suburban areas and cities, making them a safer home for bees.
Getting Set Up from the “Beeginning”
As an absolute must, contact your local beekeeping association. Every state, county, and city will typically have its own rules and regulations around hobby beekeeping, which these groups can help you navigate.
But more importantly, local beekeepers know the seasons, plants, and things to expect when beekeeping in your area. Beekeeping is relatively easy once you’ve got the hang of it, but you’ll definitely want someone to guide you through your first few seasons. The beekeeping community is very welcoming to new beekeepers (often called newbees) and can help you through every step of the process.
Local beekeepers will also help you determine if your yard is right for a beehive, which most suburban yards are. The misconception that bees are aggressive or will hassle your family and neighbors are false. Honeybees only sting when they or their home is threatened and the only time you’ll likely pick up a sting is when you’re getting into their hive. And your first sting will feel like a badge of honor anyway.
Startup costs are around $300-500 and much of this is for one-time items. A few things you’ll need:
- Hive box
- Hive tools
- Time (about 20-30 hours per year)
If you don’t have the time or don’t want to make the leap quite yet, you can always plant a bee-friendly garden, which will not only help local bees but also help you save on your water bill. Now get out there and start saving the bees!