Last week, we reviewed some of the most common benefits of backyard beekeeping. It’s not just a fun and unique hobby; you would be helping your community and the environment! So, let’s say you’re sold on the idea of beekeeping, or at least very interested. Now what?
Beekeeping can become a fairly complex hobby, but you can start off with just the basics to see if you enjoy it. Our basic guide can get you started.
Learn about your bees. The first rule to successfully managing any plant or animal species is to learn as much as you can about it. So search online, or visit the library, for information about bees. After choosing a type of bee to keep in your yard, you can move onto building a home for them.
Choose the right time. It’s best to work with bee behavior and habits, rather than against them. So that means starting your hive at the most beneficial time of year. Here in Southern California, we begin to see flowering plants bloom as early as March and April, so early spring would be the perfect time to begin. You’ll be preparing your “hive” over the winter months to get it ready.
Buy or build. It’s best to construct a box type structure for your bees, with a hinged door or lid that allows you to access the hive (and the honey). You can purchase a pre-built bee box, or build your own that suits your preferences. Just make sure to choose wood that is treated for outdoor use, so it will hold up for years to come.
Choose the right spot. You can keep a bee box pretty much anywhere in your yard. But if you have small children, you might want to place the hive far away from their play areas. Some beekeepers report problems with animals breaking into the hive to access the honey, so locking mechanisms or placing the hive somewhere high might be good ideas. Otherwise, you just want to be sure your yard contains plenty of flowering plants that bees love.
Get the right equipment. You will need protective gear for yourself, so that you can gather honey without getting stung. You might opt for just gloves and a veil for your face, or a full one-piece suit. A smoker calms the bees so that you can more safely harvest honey, and beekeeping supply stores sell various tools to help you extract honey from the combs.
Order your bees. You can order “package bees,” which are basically a bunch of bees, or a “nucleus colony.” A nucleus colony is probably the better bet, because it’s an established colony with a queen that has already begun to produce brood (babies). Once your bees arrive, simply introduce them to their new home.
For more information on backyard beekeeping, contact the Beekeepers Association of Southern California. They are a welcoming organization and will be happy to assist you with your new hobby.