The World Needs More Beekeepers
Bees are dying at alarming rates. The reasons might be controversial but one thing is for sure, you can definitely help by becoming a backyard beekeeper. Spring is the time to start a hive of your own. Here are 5 simple steps to get started.
1 | TAKE A CLASS
Check your local botanical gardens or bee association for upcoming classes. Classes normally start in late winter to early spring. If you can’t attend a class, www.backyardhive.com has a great video you can order that has step-by-step instructions on top bar beekeeping. If you are local to Colorado they have great classes for all different levels of skill. If you are an experienced beekeeper, consider teaching a class. Offering your time and skills to help others get started is a wonderful way to give back. Contact your botanical garden, community garden, or post a flyer at your library to see if there is interest in your community.
2 | ORDER A NUC
Order a “NUC” (nucleus of a hive) from your local feed store nowto be picked up the first part of May. A “NUC” or nuclear hive is is essentially 4-5 frames from an existing, thriving hive. It gives bees a head start on production and comes in a deliverable box. I have found that Italian honeybees are very docile and great for beginner beekeepers. They typically cost $175 or more. You could also get on a swarm list, which is free, but takes skill to understand how to capture a swarm. Local bee associations or bee keeping supply centers typically have “swarm lists” that you can add your name to.
3 | PURCHASE MATERIALS
Next, purchase a hive (top bar hives are what I prefer) or build a hive from plans on the internet.
Check out www.backyardhive.com for my favorite type of hive. You will also need a few supplies to help work the hive. A protective beekeeping outfit, gloves, smoker, brush, and a hive tool are the ones I started with. All of these things can be purchased at local feed and supplies stores. I aspire to not have to wear a beekeeping suit someday but when you are first learning I recommend you cover up (I still do after 5 year of practice). Some colonies are extremely easy to work and others can be more aggressive. Until you know the ropes, your hives, and how you react when the hive is open, it is best to be safe.
4 | PLACE YOUR HIVE
It is good to place your hive in April so when the bees arrive (either by package or swarm call) you have a home prepared for them. Find a nice, partly sunny location for them. The opening should face southeast, ideally, but the most important part is that it faces south and out of direct walking paths. Partly sunny locations work work well because in the winter they have the warmth of the sun to hibernate, and shade in the summer to give the hive relief from extreme heat.
5 | READ UM’ AND WAIT
The world of bees should not be underestimated. No matter how long you’ve been interested in bees there is always more to learn. Either get started on the basics or dive deeper. Here are two of my favorite books. From the step by step instructions in Top-Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell, to a lecture called BEES by Rudolf Steiner that is more of a philosophical perspective on the importance bees play in the future of humanity.
I've been beekeeping for 5 years and there is still so much to learn, but the most important part is taking that first step. Join me in helping build an environment that encourages healthy bee culture.