PART TWO: Urban beekeeping – A how to guide

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 3.39.26 pm In part one of this post, you learned what urban keeping is and what its benefits are. This post is a continuation of that, guiding you on how to become an urban beekeeper yourself! First, you must consider several factors before starting. These are:

  1. Vandals – Are there vandals in your area that will pose a threat to your bees? If so, it may be wise not to install a hive.
  2. The temperament of bees – It is best to avoid aggressive strains of bees and opt for more passive strains.
  3. Attitude of neighbours –  Have you spoken to your neighbours about the possibility of having a backyard hive? Are their attitudes positive or negative towards this idea? If negative, it may be best to install the hive at a community garden or in a friends backyard.
  4. Is it legal? – Is urban beekeeping legal in your area? Check with your local council first before installing a hive.
  5. Beekeeping associations – Are there local beekeeping associations in your area? It would be good to join one or talk to other urban beekeepers to get advice and tips from them about urban beekeeping.
  6. Plant life – Is your garden suitable for a hive? Research what plants are best suited for your local environment and plant an abundance of these in your garden for your bees to feed from.
  7. Chemicals – Avoid spraying harmful pesticides on your garden at all costs. Not only do they harm bees, but they can harm you too.
  8. Location – Is your residence a suitable location for bees? If it is in an environment with high pollution it may be wise to consider a cleaner location for your hive. If your hive is on a rooftop, you must consider environmental factors such as strong wind and rain before installing your hive.
  9. Swarming – Swarming of bees is when the queen leaves the colony with some of her worker bees to form a new colony. Removing a swarm could be tricky if bees relocate their hive to hard-to-reach spots such as air conditioning or heating vents.
  10. Storage – Do you have enough space to store beekeeping equipment?

If you have considered these factors and assessed that you can install a hive, you are ready to begin the process of becoming an urban beekeeper! Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 3.38.01 pm

  • Firstly, you should read about safe beekeeping practices. It is also beneficial for you to attend beginner beekeeping courses, and there are many easy-to-find organisations and companies in your local area that run these courses, such as The Urban Beehive in NSW and Rooftop Honey in VIC.
  • Secondly, you should join a local or state beekeeping association or club. These clubs meet regularly and members discuss their experiences with beekeeping and provide useful information to beginners on how to get started.
  • Thirdly, you must purchase all of your protective clothing. This must be worn at all times when handling your bees. These include a beekeepers hat, veil, overalls with elastic cuffs and wristbands, beekeeping gloves and a pair of boots that will cover the ankles. It is best to for clothing to be smooth in texture and light coloured, as this is most favourable to bees.
  • Fourthly, you will also need to purchase your hive. The hive is usually made up of boxes and frames, which can be purchased as 8 frame or 10 frame. You must be careful when assembling the hive to ensure it can withstand all environmental elements. An alternative to this standard hive is the top bar horizontal hive, which is a single-storey frameless hive, believed to be a more natural form of beekeeping.
  • Fifthly, you will also need to purchase your apiary tools. A hive tool is needed to separate the boxes when opening the hive and to separate and lift out the frames. A smoker is also needed to subdue the bees before opening the hive.
  • Sixthly, you need to purchase bees. This can be done in three different ways. You could purchase a nucleus colony (a small colony) from a reputable queen rearer, you could obtain bees when they are swarming or you could purchase hives with bees already in them.
  • Seventhly, you need to register yourself as a beekeeper to your local council.
  • Lastly, you need to make sure your bees are healthy and happy. Place your hive in a good location that is surrounded by a good supply of water and a variety of different flowering plant species that bees like. It is also good to maintain a quiet, passive strain of bees, control bee swarms and to keep your neighbours happy by gifting them with a little honey every now and then.

See how easy it is to start your own hive? All it requires is a little time, research, motivation and patience!

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