Action 334: Investigate keeping a beehive

beehiveDate: 30 November
Action: 334
Cost of taking action: MEDIUM

 

It could be easier than you think to maintain a colony of bees

This is an action that will take some thinking about and planning.

Keeping bees is a great hobby, can provide you with delicious honey, and helps our environment by providing the local area with a colony of pollinators – helping to sustain your local ecosystems.

Honeybees

Bees live all over the world and there are approximately 20,000 species. These range from the giant leaf eating bee, which is over 3cm long to the tiny dwarf bee which is just 2mm long.

The honeybee is just one of these species. Most other bees do not live in colonies, preferring a more solitary existence. Bumblebees for example live in burrows in the ground.

As well as crop pollination scientists believe that bees are responsible for the rich flower diversity we enjoy today. Most flowering plants cannot self-pollinate and pollination that relies on the wind to carry their seed is not very efficient, so flowers evolved with bright colours and markings to attract bees. The bees drink the nectar and transport it in a special stomach back to the hive to share with the queen, of course, and also to feed the hive bees and the larvae which will become the new bees.

Honey was the most important sweetener for food and alcoholic drinks in ancient times. It has been sought as an antiseptic and sweetener for at least 100,000 years. In Ancient Egypt and the Middle East, it was used to embalm the dead.

In Egyptian times people started to keep bees at home. The Egyptian hive design was a simple upturned straw basket called a skep. These are still used today although mainly for temporarily housing a colony of bees that has recently swarmed.

Early beehives, such as the skep, were not designed for long term use. A breakthrough discovery in beekeeping was made by a man called Lorenzo Langstroth. He discovered that bees would keep a ‘bee sized’ pathway clear within a hive if it was between 6 and 8mm wide. This discovery was important because it led to the development of hives with moveable frames of comb, allowing the beekeeper to remove comb and honey without destroying the hive.

Can You Keep Bees?

There are several things to consider.

Keeping bees requires regular time with the bees. You typically have to spend around half an hour per week with a hive. You can do this at the weekend or, if the weather is still good, when you return from work. Unlike keeping other animals, the bees mostly look after themselves and will not notice if you go on holiday. In all, you might spend 20-30 hours over the course of a year with the bees.

Bees can be kept anywhere from country orchards to urban gardens to small city balconies. It is a common misconception that you need a large garden or countryside nearby. Although this can make siting your bees easier, urban gardens are arguably better. Nectar and pollen can be gathered from a wide variety of plants. This means that there is often a constant source of food throughout the summer and a lack of harmful pesticides.

If you have a large garden, it is possible that your neighbours will not even know you have bees. However, if space is tight, you need to carefully plan the beehive site and ensure you purchase bees that are good tempered. The beehive should be located in such a way that the entrance of the hive does not point into a footpath or busy area of the garden.

Take action

Think about whether it would be practical for you to have a beehive. You can learn a lot more from the comprehensivbe article starting at this link: https://www.omlet.co.uk/guide/bees/about_bees/

If you decide this is possible, take some advice from another local beekeeper too.

Then … why not give it a go? You would be taking up a brilliant, enjoyable hobby and really helping your local ecosystem and local biodiversity.

Sweet!