Bees are an amazing addition to your garden as they will help your plants soar to new heights. Historically, most garden areas didn’t need to have their own beehive (or apiary if you’re feeling fancy) mainly due to the fact that wild honey bees were in abundance. To put the importance of bees in perspective, their estimated value that they add to plants is approximately 265 billion USD. Unfortunately, bees have been rapidly declining in population over the past years; this has been commonly called Colony Collapse Disorder.
Colony collapse disorder is thought to be attributed to many different factors, however, nobody knows what exactly is causing it. The combination of mites, viruses, and other parasites have been one of the factors in lowering the population, but there seems to be a positive correlation between the use of pesticides and the amount of bee death. One of the culprits is the pesticide family under neonicotinoids which was initially introduced to reduce the amount of DDT used (If you are looking for a good book on pesticide use and its harm I recommend “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson). If you decide to start an apiary then you would be a factor in helping the bees out, or even if you are not able to start an apiary there are ways for you to help out.
We are very fortunate on the west coast to have a large amount of support for beekeeping along with weather that isn’t too harsh for the honey bees. At the end of this blog post, I will have a link to some beekeeping supply stores as well as some contact lists for beekeeping information. It would be great to check out Hives for Humanity
Now you may be wondering what are the pros and cons of having an apiary or beehive in your backyard, and I will give you some of them.
When a bee lands on a plant it tends to come into contact with the plant’s pollen which then gets stuck in the hair-like structures on the bee. Pollen is actually the male microgametophyte and when it comes into contact with a compatible cone it will be transported to the ovule tube which will then fertilize and create a zygote. This zygote will develop into a fruit, or a seed, or even into another plant; this whole process is the pollination process. Due to the two different genetic material coming together, the offspring (Seeds) will likely be somewhat hardier to your conditions and can even be less likely to suffer from diseases. While this may not seem important, this is the key factors to having a happy and healthy garden, as most plants require fertilization to continue through development.
If you are trying to stay away from processed sugars honey is a great alternative for you. It is an all natural product that would be coming straight from your backyard. The honey you produce can also be sold (Check your bylaws) so you can bring in a little extra money. Nothing quite beats honey straight off the comb.
Increased Crop Yield:
There is an incredibly significant positive correlation between pollination and crop yield. If you are able to ensure that your garden is pollinated, it is going to do much better.
Now some Cons,
Starting up a beehive is not a cheap process, and you really shouldn’t cut corners when working with bees. All of the equipment can become expensive very quickly.
You may get stung:
Most beekeepers do not get stung very often. Honey bees are friendly and are not likely to sting you, but if they do it will hurt.
What should you do if you want to get into beekeeping?
Learn the laws of your area
Not all areas have the exact same municipal laws surrounding beekeeping. It is important to understand all the regulations surrounding bees to ensure that your bees remain undisturbed and happy.
Consult your neighbors
If your neighbor is incredibly allergic to bee stings you may want to refrain from creating a beehive. In addition, if your neighbors are not comfortable with having an increase in bees due to a fear it may be a good idea to double check with them to confirm what will work for them.
Contact your local beekeeper's association.
These people will have the best information for ensuring your bees are happy and healthy. In addition, these people should be able to provide insightful information on reducing the risk of diseases and other issues you could run into.
Consider the costs
Getting into beekeeping can be more expensive. The lower end of beginner kits will run you at least 220$ and they can go up from there.
Photo credits to Barnsley Beekeeping Association.