Beekeeping

Beekeeping What's all the buzz about?

Honeybees flit from blossom to bloom, resting for a moment before ascending toward the next awaiting flower, their improvisational choreography adding movement and music to landscapes and pondscapes. The show is a production with a single-note score, and what occurs behind the scenes reveals Mother Nature’s miracle. Pollination is in process, one of the most critical aspects of environmental sustainability.

The choreography is meaningful; beckoning other honeybees with their waggle dance and pheromones to signal pollen is near and ready to be harvested.

But the shows are sporadic. They aren’t happening often enough. Pesticide use and habitat destruction have caused declining honeybee populations, threatening crop production. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)—the global phenomenon that results in the abandonment of hives by worker bees—has taken its toll. You may have witnessed change over time in your own garden—what once produced a bumper crop is now a garden full of blossoms, sans bounty. Bees, once a frequent visitor of pond flora, may be enjoyed only a couple of times a day.

Fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers rely on the pollination process—as bees land on flowers, pollen sacs attach to their legs, ready for transport to the next bloom. Upon landing, the pollen sac dislodges and pollination occurs, catalyzing the growth of fruits and vegetables. As honeybee populations have dwindled, their precious work has gone undone.

But change starts with one more colony, one more honeybee. Starting your own colony, or even your own apiary, requires a bit of research—decisions must be made regarding the type of hive you prefer, the equipment needed and the best source for bees. Langstroth hives—for example—have been used for over 150 years and are a favorite of commercial beekeepers. Top-bar hives with an observation window are the choice-du-jour for novices. Joining a local beekeepers club will provide the opportunity to collaborate with area beekeepers who can provide insight on region-specific tips and best practices. For novices who prefer to start small, focus on ways to attract bees to your yard.

Bees are a specialized species; colony observation can provide hours of enjoyment.

Colonies are comprised of queens (females whose sole purpose is to perpetuate the hive by laying eggs), drones (males whose only job is to mate with the queen) and workers (sterile females who clean the hive, produce honey, pollinate flowers and care for the queen).   

Pond water provides a fresh water source for bees—but a dearth of local water sources can cause bees to become territorial. Bees may chase—or even sting—when owners are sitting pondside or providing maintenance. To draw bees away from your pond—without harming them—provide a fresh water source between your pond and their nest.

If feeling good about contributing to agricultural sustainability isn’t enough, each honeybee colony produces about 30 gallons of honey annually. Beekeeping is worthwhile work—its effects will transcend your yard—and maybe even your generation.