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The Homestead Beekeeper - Tips on Keeping Bees

Sue Merriam
 


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The homestead beekeeper knows there is no better form of self reliance than keeping a colony or two of these wonderful insects around. They not only provide a nourishing food packed with health benefits and nutrition, but bees also provide excellent pollination for your garden and orchard. Think far more abundant harvest year after year.

But Bee Aware. . .

Sorry for the pun, but just like caring for any other critter on your homestead, the amount of information you will need to know would fill an entire website by itself. But hopefully this article will give you an idea of what beekeeping entails.

Benefits of Beekeeping

1. Fresh, raw honey. Naturally, that's the main reason people keep bees. If you've never had fresh, raw honey, you have no idea of the treat that's in store for you. Honey you buy at the store has usually been processed, until it's nothing but sugar and no nutrients. But raw honey is different, with a ton of health benefits, from giving you natural energy to helping with allergies.

2. Pollination of your garden and orchard. More bees mean more pollination and a far more productive garden.

3. It's fun. Bees are fascinating little insects that stick together like. . . well. . . honey. They work together as a whole, and each bee has its own role - and place - in society. Learning about them - and working with them - can be addictive.

The Downsides

Work with bees long enough and you will get stung, sometimes more than once if you make your little colony mad. It might be wise to keep an anaphylactic kit on hand in case you or someone you know has a severe reaction to a bee sting (or several).

Also, not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of a colony of bees nearby. If someone in your family has an excessive fear of bugs, keeping a bee hive might not be wise.

You should let your neighbors know you are keeping bees, especially if you live in the city. Occasional gifts of honey will hopefully warm them to the idea of the little buzzers. If you are within city limits, you will also need to check your city ordinance to find out what laws - if any - apply to beekeeping in the suburbs.

And finally, be aware that your hive will need some time and attention. Expect to devote approximately 40 hours per colony each season to your bee hive.

What You Will Need

At the time this was written (2008), the supplies you need will cost about $400 in American dollars. In addition, a honey extractor will run about $350 to $400.

Here are some of the basics that you will need:

A hive box or hive kit
Hive tool
Smoker
Bee Suit
An anaphylactic kit
Bees

The Most Important Thing

And finally, you will need time. Bee prepared! (Last pun, I promise!) Bee keeping can be a time-consuming hobby. You must be interactive with your bees. Check your hive at least once a week and keep a log of what you observe. That way you will learn what's normal for your bees and when they need special attention, such as medication for mites.

Sue Merriam is author of the website, Organic Gardening and Homesteading. Learn more about beekeeping at her website: http://www.organic-gardening-and-homesteading.com

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