Sweet as Honey: The Benefits of Backyard Beekeeping

Keeping a hive of bees in your backyard may not be something that’s ever crossed your mind. If it has, it may have seemed a bit intimidating. Backyard beekeeping is actually no more difficult than maintaining a garden, and it comes with some serious benefits.

Bee Basics

First, bear in mind that bees can travel several miles in search of pollen. There’s not a lot you can do to control this, but it’s important to think about your surrounding area. Will the bees be able to find enough pollen to sustain them?

Second, a fairly high fence or shrub is helpful to maintain your hive. This does several things. It can help calm neighbors who might be uncomfortable with the thought of a beehive being so close. Out of sight, out of mind. And, bees fly in a straight line when seeking honey, so a high fence or shrub forces the bee’s flight path above the heads of neighbors. Last, a fence or shrub can act as a windbreak, protecting the structural integrity of the hive.

Patrick Baker, Newent
Honey bee drinking from the top of a watering can in the garden

Another thing to consider is water. Unlike many insects, bees need water to live and prefer small streams or standing bodies of water, like pet bowls or bird baths. You can also buy bee-watering kits online, and mix some sugar into the water for some extra bee-fuel. It’s important that they learn to return to the same water source, so keeping that water source clean and full is crucial to prevent the hive from traveling too far to find water.

Finally, make sure to check local laws to make sure you can legally keep bees. According to the Apiary Inspectors of America, most communities do not have laws specifically outlawing beekeeping, but some may have broader “nuisance” laws that could apply. It’s a good idea to have a discussion with your neighbors first, to make sure no problems arise.

Enjoy the Bee-nefits

According to the US Department of Agriculture, bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat. By keeping bees, you’re helping to improve the quality of food in your local area (especially if you live in an area dense with community gardens or in a more rural location). Furthermore, your bees will help to diversify the plant population by helping to disseminate different kinds of pollen throughout your region.

Honey! The average jar of local honey costs around $12. With your own hive, you can get yours free. With a large enough hive, you can even store additional honey to give to friends or sell. Local honey reduces pollen allergies and is a great way to naturally sweeten tea or use in baking.

Keeping a hive can also go a long way toward boosting your backyard garden. Honey bees will pollinate your garden, your neighbor’s gardens, and anything else that may be within a few miles’ radius.

Last, keeping a hive is a great farm-to-table learning experience for the kids. Help them develop a deep connection with nature and learn about food production and the role that bees play in the ecosystem. They may even get some extra credit in science class!

In most regions, you can start a hive for a few hundred dollars and it will propagate on its own with minimal maintenance. There are tons of resources online to help you through your beekeeping journey, including this awesome YouTube channel.