Raise Bees in Your Backyard
Top 10 Reasons to Be a Beekeeper
- Honeybees are the keystone fundamental pollinator species of agriculture and wildlife. They produce an almost perfect energy food, honey. They are very forgiving livestock. You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect beekeeper. Honeybees do not necessarily require the management skills of a learned beekeeper for optimum results.
- You don’t have to own large tracts of your land or barns or fences. You can live in an apartment building and have all your colonies elsewhere.
- You don’t have to get up at 2:00 in the morning to check if they are hatching or calving.
- The honeybee works for almost nothing. They feed themselves (a honeybee can forage for nectar and pollen efficiently in a 2- to a 2-1/2-mile radius of their colony) and clean up after themselves as well. If you could develop a breed of goats that collected hay and brought it back to the barn to use in winter and then cleaned out the barn as well, you would have something almost as good as a honeybee.
- If your beehive plans result in too many colonies of honeybees in your backyard, then, unlike cows or something else big, you can ask a neighbor if you can put some of your valuable honeybees on his property in the unused place in the back. Most of the time, if you have done your PR (samples of honey and the pollination story), the answer is yes. No land to buy or rent.
- Honeybee equipment, such as honey extraction equipment and a honeybee extractor, while having a cost, is far less expensive than other farm or agricultural equipment. A hive of honeybees doesn’t require oil, gasoline, diesel, or anything else to run.
- Honeybees pollinate. Honeybees’ main foods are nectar/honey and pollen collected as they fly from flower to flower. Their hairy little bodies pick up the sticky pollen from flowers. This is the pollen that then transfers to the sticky stigma on another flower and pollination occurs. Flowers produce lots more pollen than they absolutely require because this pollination activity is still risky. The excess pollen stuck on the honeybee’s body is combed out by a structure on the bee’s legs and collected in small balls on the hind legs, easily seen in its bright orange, yellow, and even red and green colors. Bees collect pollen because it is their protein, vitamin, fat, and mineral food source. Nectar/honey is an energy, carbohydrate food. But bees don’t eat, can’t eat, pollen. These pollen grains are protected and encased in silica (glass) to protect the “sperm” inside from drying out, getting wet, etc., before they can fertilize a seed. This silica shell has to be broken open. Honeybees add various bacteria and yeasts to the pollen collected so that when it is stored in the cells of honeycomb, it starts to ferment, and the silica shell breaks away, releasing the food inside. This fermented pollen is called bee bread. Kind of like pollen silage for those of you familiar with that process.
- Bees make honey. More honey than they need to survive a winter on their own. They share the surplus with the beekeeper. Flowering plants produce a sweet liquid solution called nectar to entice a honeybee to visit the flower and do this important thing — pollination — that we talked about earlier. The honeybees collect this nectar. They add enzymes to it to change the sugar profile and reduce the moisture level below 18% so the honey will not spoil or ferment. Honey has been found in the tombs of Pharaohs, ready to eat.
- No cows, goats, chickens, rabbits, or whatever to jump over, crawl under, or knock down your homestead fencing and get out to aggravate you and your neighbors.
- There is very little winter work with honeybees. If the beekeeper has helped prepare the honeybee colonies, so they have plenty of food for the winter and has addressed pest, predator, and disease issues in the fall then there is nothing to do. They don’t need feeding, watering, shoveling, milking, or anything else.
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