A Look Ahead

If you live in the northeastern United States, or have had the misfortune of visiting us in the past few days, I’m sure you’ve noticed how deceptively cold it’s been here. By deceptive, I mean that even though it might look bright and sunny and gardening-friendly, venturing outdoors always results in being whisked back inside by a blast of cold air and a mocking snowflake. So, in an attempt to escape from this deep freeze, I thought I’d talk about beekeeping: a new-found hobby of mine that will be picking up in the warm, sunny month of April, a month that seems about as distant as the land of milk and honey…

I was first made aware of this seemingly archaic pastime (I really didn’t think people still kept bees, quite honestly) by the great folks over at GardenFork. For reasons that I can’t explain, I decided that I would don the bee-suit and, after some convincing, I talked Eric, a good friend of mine, into joining me in this venture. By now, I’m sure someone is thinking “Why would someone deliberately place several-thousand stinging insects onto their property?”. And, I’ll admit, I thought the exact same thing the first time I heard of backyard beekeeping. But, after hearing of the incredible benefits of keeping a hive full of bees (and that bees are, for the most part, very gentle creatures), I was sold. Although there are certainly a myriad more justifications for keeping bees, here are a few benefits that helped win me over:

1. Keeping bees increases the growth and output of a vegetable garden. There’s no way around it, gardeners need bees. Without ’em, we’d have to rely solely on the randomness of the winds for the pollination of our plants (and I’m not exactly ready to put all my money on the reliability of the weather!).

2. Bees produce honey. I know, that’s a pretty obvious statement, but when you think of all of honey’s health benefits, having a local supply makes a lot of sense, especially if you’re a fan of getting your produce locally!

3. On a global scale, bees are disappearing. Literally. Because of a phenomena known as Colony Collapse Disorder, entire hives of bees have begun to vanish, leaving nothing but an empty hive and a baffled beekeeper behind. This mysterious occurrence means that new beekeepers are desperately needed to replenish the dwindling number of bees in the world. According to the USDA, bee pollination accounts for $15 billion of crop value (or, to put it another way-one out of every three mouthfuls of food you eat has been beneficially affected {directly or indirectly} by bees), so it’s in everyone’s best interest to help these little guys (or girls) get back on their feet!

Image found at spillehoney.comOnce I was convinced that beekeeping would be good for me, if not the world, I set out to find a few resources that would help me in my quest to single-handedly repopulate the bee community (I might have been a tad over-ambitious at first). In the picture of our hive below, you might notice the book Beekeeping for Dummies, a guide that has proven to be an invaluable resource. If you’re interested in beekeeping, or if you’re a beekeeping pro, this book is bound to teach you something.

Being that I was not only convinced that I must keep bees, but now well-read on the topic, I needed supplies. And, thanks to the advertising on GardenFork’s iTunes videos, I was made aware of Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. This bee supplier had everything necessary to get started for this year (plus much, much more). What makes this company even more reputable, I think, is that they raise their own bees; and, if you live around their North Carolinian headquarters, they’ll even ship a package of them to you!

Because I don’t live in North Carolina, a fact which is a bit saddening, especially during this never-ending cold weather, I had to find a local apiary (or bee-farm) in my area. Scouring every online, beekeeping forum we could locate, Eric and I finally settled on Bjorn’s Apiary, run by Mike Thomas. If you live in PA and are interested in beekeeping, Mike is truly a wealth of information (and bees)! He breeds his strains of bees specifically for this area so that each hive will survive the winter. Not unlike an expectant mother, we’ve been rushing around getting everything ready for April 10, the arrival date of our package of Russian bees. The hive has been built, a location has been set, and all that’s left is to set up our hive and install our bees!

If all goes according to plan, Eric and I will be heading to the site of our future apiary to prepare the hive for its future inhabitants. I’ll try to take a few pictures and share them here as soon as I can! As for the pictures of my photo shoot with The Gilded Lily, the landscaping firm I had previously mentioned, I hope to have them up by the middle of next week, once I receive the negatives.

Well, that’s all the news from my frozen patch of ground, hope it’s getting warmer in your neck of the woods!
As always, happy gardening (or beekeeping)!


4 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Nate, do you keep bees at your home or at another site? Keeping bees is something I think I would in the future, but how much land/space do you need?



  2. We’re keeping our bees at another site, only because I live in one of the 90 cities in America that list beekeeping as an illegal activity (for reasons I simply can’t comprehend).
    You really don’t need much room at all (though it’s best to check your local government’s requirement for beekeeping-for instance, in the township next to mine, there must be fifty feet between the hive and your property line). When the bees leave the hive in the morning, they fly out for several miles, meaning that even if you don’t have much room for the hive, the bees will still find all the food they need!
    I would suggest that keeping your bees away from a densely populated area would be best, though-having a lot of people around that your bees don’t recognize can result in more than the usual number of stings.


  3. i didn’t know they were russian bees…..are they all wearing those fur hats?


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