Dec 05 , 2019
It was devastating to see the Notre Dame cathedral burning last week. But did you know Notre Dame had three bee hives, all with 60,000 bees in each hive, living on a roof over the sacristy beneath the rose window…AND THEY ALL SURVIVED! That’s right, they all made it out of that horrible travesty. Nicolas Geant, Notre Dame’s beekeeper, said the hives were not touched by the blaze because they were located about 30 meters below the main roof where the fire spread. This got me thinking, “Just how hard is it to raise bees?” You hear all the time that people should be concerned over the dwindling bee population. So, how can we help solve this problem? Here are some basic things you need to know about raising bees:
Research local bee keeping regulations.
Join a beekeeping club—if there’s not one, start one.
Buy gentle bees: A good, recommended starter bee is a Buckfast bee. The Buckfast bee is a breed of honey bee good for pollination, honey, and is less aggressive than others; and which originated in the U.K. in the early 20th
Fence in your backyard. If you don’t have a sprawling backyard, or have neighbors which are close by, build your fence out of wood and at least 8 feet high. Bees will need to fly over people’s heads, not into them.
Pick the ideal location. Hives need to face south so they can get an optimal amount of sun most of the day, but they also need shade. A location on your property near a tree as well as a source of water will be perfect for your bees. After your location is selected you can plant flowers or fruit trees or anything else that would make bees happy nearby.
Start with 2 bee swarms. If something happens to one of the swarms, you can use the second swarm to raise new bees to replace the first.
Look for used beehives. Browse ads in local-beekeeping-club newsletters, or other places like Craigslist or Letgo, for used hives and/or tools. Hives made of wood or Styrofoam are good. Styrofoam helps keep bees warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Keep in mind you may have to thoroughly clean your new equipment. You wouldn't want to introduce a leftover bacteria to a new colony of bees. (See #14 on what to watch out for)
Get a honey extractor.
Purchase safety clothing.
Get a smoker. You can reduce any stinging or agitating your bees if you smoke them with a smoker first before opening the hives to check on them or extract any honey. Don’t worry, a smoker does not harm the bees in any way, it just calms them down; however, you can over-smoke a hive, so please don’t do that.
Consult your neighbors beforehand. This helps if you live close to your neighbors—you never know if someone is allergic or just deathly afraid of bees.
Don’t expect to make lots of money selling honey. That’s not to say you can’t make money from selling honey, it’s just not going to be a lot. Think of this as more of a saving the bee population, feel-good hobby.
Check your hives regularly. Although raising bees doesn’t take a lot of work after the initial setup, performing regular check-ups help ensure that your bees are healthy and working. Check at least once a week to make sure the queen bee is available and laying eggs.
Watch out for diseases, parasites, and bacteria. Varroa destructor mites, Nosema, Tracheal mites, and American/European foulbrood are just some of the things you need to keep an eye out for when checking on the health of your bee colony. Varroa destructor mites are parasites which feed on honeybees and larva and can transmit secondary diseases, such as a virus called deformed wing disease. Nosema is a disease transmitted by microsporidian parasites which enter the honeybees as spores and then develop in the honeybee gut where they weaken the bee and lead to premature death of adult bees and the queen. Bees pass the spores via excrement which build up in the hive, particularly during the winter. Tracheal mites are microscopic sized vermin which inhabit young adult bees and feed on their blood causing development problems, inability to fly, and overall health problems. They can easily transfer from bee to bee and can spread fast, particularly during the winter hibernation period. These mites are controlled with Menthol crystals, which is a registered pesticide with the U.S. EPA. The American/European foulbrood is a bacterial disease that kills bee larva in the honeycomb.