Beekeeping with Bec – nothing speaks louder than experience
To continue holding events, even during lockdown, EWHA hosted a Zoom webinar where our very own Bec Bennett led us through her discoveries through beekeeping. These fascinating little creatures have interesting lives, and as a superorganism, are focused on survival of the hive. For us, with the European Honey Bee, they build up so much stored supplies for themselves that they can share it with us. Bec shared so much with us in the webinar that it is difficult to summaries it all, but here we go.
Firstly, think about whether beekeeping is for you – it needs to match you lifestyle. Bees need regular care and attention, and cannot be left in a corner of the garden to fend for themselves. Be prepared for the time commitment, and for the state and local government regulations that come with keeping livestock on your property. Be careful of bee sting allergies. When working with bees, remember – they can smell your fear – stay calm. Be prepared for the cost also – a full kit of protective equipment, hive tool, brush, smoker, frame grabber, as well as the cost of the hives, all add up. And then, which style of hive do you want? Luckily, help is available. As the bees need each other to survive, so do beekeepers. Bec recommends that you do a course, read about bees, join a club and/or online group, and, most of all, find a mentor who will be more than willing to help you through each step.
As much as we like a comfortable house, so do the bees. A sunny position, easterly outlook, slightly elevated, shaded from the afternoon heat, protected from strong winds, with easy access and plenty of space for the flight path. Choose the site carefully, as moving a hive can be tricky.
Once all that is under control, sooner or later, you will be able to harvest the excess honey and enjoy the sweat treat, knowing that you are also caring for the bees and the environment.
European Honey Bees are important pollinators, especially for the fruits and vegetables imported into this continent along with the bees. Native bees and other insects also have a critical role to play. Our role, as gardeners, is to provide spaces, sanctuaries, for the bees. Provide water, and something for them to climb on in the water as bees cannot swim. Avoid the use of pesticides. Provide a year round supply of nectar and pollen by choosing a range of plants that flower at different times of the year – open, purple flowers are the best when bees are out foraging. Let some of your vegetables (eg, lettuces, carrots) flower as well, to help keep the bees attracted to your productive garden.