ALL ABUZZ ABOUT URBAN BEEKEEPING
The saying goes that everything is better (and sweeter) with a touch of honey. Urban beekeeping is a popular, growing trend for 2014. City residents worried about the global decline of bee populations have taken to urban beekeeping to do their part. Beehives are being kept in community gardens, backyards and even balconies. Imagine having your own fresh and delicious batch of honey to use in recipes – a single bee can produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime (about 6 weeks), and if you’re going to create a colony, which consists of thousands of bees, that honey will add up quickly! Before working with bees, it’s important to understand their biology and familiarize yourself with beekeeping basics. Honeybees have their own agendas and aren’t interested in humans. If you understand them and respect the laws of nature, beekeeping can be a safe and pleasurable hobby. Here are some tips for you when you’re just starting out on your beekeeping journey. We hope you’ll “bee” inspired along the way.
Where will you keep your bees?
Provisions for keeping bees is quite simple if you stick to the rules. You will need a permit authorizing the activity. Any bee hive you install must be a minimum of 5 metres from any boundary of your premises as well as a minimum of 20 metres from any public space or building used by humans or any place used to keep animals, poultry and birds. The bees need to be kept in an approved hive that is inaccessible to children and animals. It needs to be kept in the shade at all times and also supplied with a source of drinking water within 5 metres of the hive. It is illegal to dump or deposit any garbage, compost, grass cuttings or manure within 5 metres of any bee hive. So, you can see that having your bees out of sight will be best for all concerned. You can create an evergreen screen of hedging plants (sunflowers are a nice alternative) so people can’t see them. This will also ensure that the bees fly up and away when leaving and returning to their hive – which is comfortably above human height.
Get a hive stand for your bees
The picture on the right is a typical example of a hive stand. Having a hive stand will ensure that your hives are kept off the ground to protect the bees from skunks, badgers and other honey-hungry critters. Make sure that your stand is about 50 centimetres off the ground, with enough room between each hive to place the covers. Keep old mulch, old carpeting or gravel and stones on the ground around your hives to keep the mud down.
Protect yourself with a jacket and veil or a full suit
You’ll need protective gear with a veil to stop wandering bees from becoming entangled in your hair. If you don’t want to wear a full suit, consider using a lightweight jacket with an attached veil, which unzips, for regular beework. As a first-timer, if you’re a little weary about bees not being in a “good mood” or you’ll be doing heavy duty beework, invest in a full bee suit. Multi-Media Lifestyle Entrepreneur, Martha Stewart, pictured in a full suit to the left, owns her own hives and is on a mission to educate others on the importance of what she calls “these mysterious, somewhat frightening, awe-inspiring benefactors of nature.” Beekeeping, she says, has “something so romantic” about it. Also, wearing gloves is advised if you feel that you’re going to be uncomfortable with bees buzzing on your bare hands.
Invest in a smoker
A smoker, seen on the right, will be your ally as a beekeeper. Simply put, it’s a cylinder with a bellows attached. You can build a slow burning fire with pine needles, old burlap or rotten wood. When the bellows are squeezed, smoke comes out of the nozzle. When bees are confronted with smoke, their first instinct is to escape. Worker bees will escape into the hive and eat as much honey as they can to take with them for when they abandon the hive and seek out a new nest. This ensures that you are left alone to “do your thing.” Make sure that your smoker is lit at all times so that you can work in peace.
Consider taking a beekeeping class
Consider attending classes on beekeeping. You might, for example, learn about how to direct your bees’ flight path or become more comfortable with bees when you are being taught by an expert. You can find out more about classes and other events on the Southerns Beekeeping Association website. Honey consumption equals a healthier environment Due to Urban growth and development and a decline in vegetation and flora in the city, your beekeeping endeavours could assist in a healthier environment. Honey boosts immunity and daily consumption raises levels of protective antioxidants. Local honey is said to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. All these factors should aid in your decision to become an urban beekeeper or hone your craft. Hopefully the honey and cheese pictured above (courtesy of David Rocco) will also help to whet your appetite. Check out this link for some more amazing recipes using honey.