I’m so excited for you to read today’s guest post! It was written by Gavin who is currently hosting a beehive and he’s written the pros and cons.
Hosting a beehive is like owning a condominium for impatient, workaholic interior designers. They improve your environment and find beauty in the things you take for granted – just stay out of their way.
My partner and I started hosting a beehive last year. Rural Quebec, replete with space, wildflowers, bushes and pollinating trees, seemed like an ideal location. The pandemic simply pushed to the forefront what had been a back-of-mind interest for years.
We found positive environmental, social and psychological advantages to having a hive. But, the experience has been balanced with the potential impacts and costs associated with our fuzzy little friends.
One quick caveat, I am only an enthusiastic amateur. There is a growing body of research on how to manage beehives, as well as their environmental advantages and consequences. I am sticking to my own experiences here, but you should consider thorough research before you start.
Like us, you may want to consider working with an apiary company first, particularly if they are willing to train you.
So, here are some things to consider if you want to start hosting a beehive.
Bees produce an enormous amount of honey
We use a fraction of what our bees produce, and that includes gifts to family and friends. This year, we expect up to 150 jars from two harvests. With that volume, we can donate honey to the local food bank, fundraise for our daughter’s school, build relationships with neighbours (free honey goes a long way to making friends) and recoup some of the costs by selling off the rest for personal use or gifts. You should definitely anticipate more than your own needs.
Related post: Everything you need to know about beeswax wraps
You will find yourself more aware of the world.
We have lived in a rural environment for decades. While I thought I was aware of my surroundings, I did not realize how little thought I gave to pollinators. You will definitely look at plant life differently.
For me, though, there was one specific and unexpected epiphany.
I hate my lawn. As in, full-on loathing.
I never noticed the insanity of lawns, at least to the extent that North American’s fuss over them, until I started looking at it from the perspective of pollinators. The amount of space given to grass, only to cut it down when it starts to sprout small flowering plants, is ludicrous.
I am not advocating you put a rusted El Camino in your front lawn and go for the unkempt, shabby, Texas Chainsaw Massacre look. Given the importance of pollinators, though, we really need to start thinking of grass as the accent, not the main course.
They pollinate a lot more than flowers
Honeybees cast a surprisingly wide net. Resilient, prototypically Canadian trees like Amur Maples and wild grapevines, greenery you would not associate with pollination, get the same annual makeover from our hive as wildflowers.
Bees are cool
They are fascinating, inventive, self-sufficient workaholics. Well, female bees are cool. A hive is one seriously matriarchal society.
It is hard work and is resource-intensive
We are working with a small local company as we learn the skills to manage the colony on our own. This list considers that support:
- Get the bees – you need to find a supplier and wait patiently to see if they actually accept their new home;
- Require several hundreds, potentially thousands, of dollars of equipment, including inspection tools, training and clothing;
- Consider adequate and consistent water, particularly if there are pools in the area (turns out, honeybees love pools);
- Consider how to winterize the hive;
- Monitor the Queen and overall colony health;
- Research and monitor for parasites;
- Open communication with your neighbors; and,
- Look out for bears (welcome to rural Quebec).
Not everyone loves honeybees
Between honey and the use of honeycombs, honeybees are enormously useful for humanity. That does not mean everyone wants an actual colony in the neighbourhood. At a minimum, you need to talk to your neighbours before you put in a hive.
In North America, like cats and horses, we tend to assume that honeybees are native to the continent. In fact, they came over with European settlers. They are, technically, an invasive species that compete with indigenous pollinators.
The expression, honeybees are the cows of the insect world, is not meant as a compliment. They are productive, but they take space and some environmentalists have raised concerns about the overuse of beehives.
What we have tried to do, particularly as our colony ignores several types of flowering trees and plants, is to plant a wide variety of pollinating plants that attract other pollinators. Consider, at least, creating space and opportunity for a variety of pollinators.
They will break your heart
Your colony will die, eventually. I have not had this happen yet, but I walked around my hive this spring, like an anxious prospective dad in a 1960’s waiting room. I know others that have lost their colony for no apparent reason and described it as a frustrating and depressing experience.
At the end of the day, a beehive is a serious investment. It has been fun, the honey has been amazing and we have been able to share the wealth. We are only two years in but we have no regrets.
It has also turned me into an irascible lawn-hater, but maybe that was only a matter of time.
You can find Gavin on social media here:
I learnt so many new things about bees by reading this post, I hope you did too! If you would like to guest post on my blog, please fill out my Google Docs form.
Best wishes, Cx