Honey bees seem to be a constant fad going in and out of the media since Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) hit hard in 2006. We all know a few general facts about bees; they pollinate stuff, they’re pretty cute and they will sting you if you bother them. I’m also pretty
confident that most of us have heard of at least one or two stories on the news, on twitter or on our facebook feeds about how bees have been dying off in massive numbers recently, and how this has the potential to lead to some pretty detrimental effects on our current food system. For anyone who has not heard of CCD, the quick definition is a disorder happening in bee populations that is leading to mass deaths of honey bees. Even now the cause is not definitive, and scientists only have theories as to why CCD is happening.
First off, It’s important to understand that honey bees are essential to pollination of certain crops, but how essential? Well, it turns out they are the glue holding together an estimated $40 billion national agriculture industry.
Not to mention the multi-million-dollar industry that comes from honey and beeswax products. As you can tell folks, the current rate at which bees are dying is not a small, shove-it-under-the-rug problem. In addition to CCD there was a recent incident (as if the bees didn’t have it hard enough already) that killed off an extra couple million bees. Thanks to the lovely Zika virus scare, a South Carolina county took it upon themselves to spray a well-known insecticide (well-known for being extremely effective on all insects) across the entire county to control mosquito populations. Just as predicted though, the insecticide killed ample amount of insects… including honey bees. I am not a Zika virus expert nor an insecticide expert; However, I just have a hard time believing this was the ONLY way to handle this situation. That being said, it happened, we can’t go back, but we can go forward. In order to go forward we need to figure out some worthy solutions, because letting honeys bees go extinct is not one. There is discussion of solutions related to honey bee breeding techniques, hive pest control and using alternative pollination techniques. The one I would like to discuss though isn’t the most scientific or government-involved solution. It is the solution that starts in your own backyard.
That’s right! Backyard bee keeping. On a personal level, backyard bee keeping will not only
keep your home garden thriving, but it is also a great way to help the bee population. It’s also an awesome solution if you like bees and honey and if you’re the kind of person looking for more fulfillment than a $5 Greenpeace donation. By keeping a healthy environment readily available to local bees, you are providing
an avenue for them thrive and you are providing protection for them that they might not have in a natural scenario.Backyard beekeeping seems intimidating at first, but it really is feasible.
- First you will need an open outdoor space to keep the bees. Unfortunately, this
limits the population to people who are living in houses with a yard. If this is you, keep reading! If this is not you, maybe it will be you one day, so keep reading!
- You will need to provide the bees with a place to build their hive. If you are interested in building your own bee box, click here. If you want to buy pre-made bee keeping sets or boxes, there are many places to do that. One link is here.
- Once you have an appealing bee home in your yard, a swarm of bees may just come and find its way to you. If not, you can always purchase honey bees too. Here is a link to buy honey bees in Colorado.
- Once you have your boxes set up and have a colony in place, it is just the upkeep. It is important to make sure you have supplemental food for the bees, such as sugar syrup or honey that you provide. this is especially important in fall and early spring (when pollination is at its lowest). Bees need plenty of water at all times as well. This could be done with buckets of water in your yard, or a nice water feature such as a small pond.
- During the winter the bees will stay in their hive, protecting the queen bee, and consume their stored honey. As long as you have properly pr
epared them with enough supplemental food prior to winter, the bees will be good to go.
- To learn more about proper beekeeping techniques, you can take classes through the Boulder County Beekeepers Association and visit the website here.