Plenty of people have dabbled with growing herbs or vegetables in their yards, on their balconies or even on windowsills and kitchen counters.
Growing your own food means you can buy less, while also knowing exactly where your food comes from. What you may not know, though, is that with a little space, time and effort you can expand the edibles you raise yourself to include some pretty interesting things.
Bees have been in the news a lot lately because many bee colonies are suffering from colony collapse disorder, which often wipes out half of a hive within a year. Bees are an integral part of our food system, since they pollinate many of the plants whose fruits and vegetables we commonly eat, so the drop in honeybee populations is troublesome.
For this reason and because many people are turning to local foods, urban beekeeping is growing in popularity. Plus, honey doesn’t need to be processed in any way before you eat it, so while raising bees for honey does require some know-how, once you understand the steps you’ll have a ready-to-eat sweetener right in your yard.
To begin beekeeping, you’ll first need to assess your surroundings. You should consider whether your community would welcome bees, since some neighbors may be allergic to bee stings or be apprehensive. You should also consider how much sun the hive will get and whether food (read: plants) and a water source are nearby.
Next, you will need to obtain beekeeping equipment. A hive will obviously be required, and this consists of a hive body (where the bees live), frames (the structures where bees create honey) and bottom boards (which go underneath everything else). You’ll also need a bee suit, a smoker (which emits smoke to calm the bees) and a hive tool (which is used to remove the frames of honey). For descriptions of these and other items, visit Apartment Therapy’s article about basic beekeeping equipment. Don’t forget you’ll need to buy bees, too!
Once your hive is up and running, bees will make honey on the hive’s frames, which they then cover with wax. You can remove the frames and wax coating, extract the honey and put it into jars. Depending on conditions, you could get up to 200 pounds of honey from your hive each year, according to the American Beekeeping Federation.
To learn more details about beekeeping, visit the American Beekeeping Federation, whose website offers a series of documents that explain the process to beginning beekeepers. The University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab also sells helpful manuals and videos.
Apartment Therapy has an accessible series of articles about beekeeping. In addition to their list of necessary equipment, they also explain the extraction process.
Want to purchase everything you’ll need? Check out Beekeeping Starter Kit.