Backyard beekeeping is a honey of a hobby.
People often think acres of land are required to keep bees. Not so! While many hives are kept on farms, more and more beekeepers are setting them up in suburban backyards or even urban rooftops—and still reaping the many benefits. And Dan Harris, a professional beekeeper who teaches beginners, says the relatively inexpensive hobby requires only moderate upkeep, and offers these benefits:
- Fresh honey! Local raw honey is often tastier than pasteurized honey, and it may be healthier for you as well, since it maintains pollens, enzymes and nutrients that can be lost in pasteurization. Honey has been used for centuries to soothe sore throats and touted for other health benefits as well.
- A more bountiful garden. Bees help pollinate nearby gardens and farm crops so the plants produce more fruit and seed. That means more blooms and higher vegetable yield. Bees aren’t the only means of pollination, but they are responsible for up to 80 percent of all insect-driven pollination. And because they’ll likely gather nectar from an even larger area, they’ll help pollinate beyond your yard, contributing to a more diverse, sustainable eco-system.
- Deterrence of dangerous bees. Managed backyard beehives are called the first and best defense against aggressive Africanized honey bees. They help dilute the populations of Africanized bees and prevent takeover of their hives, since Africanized bees are less attracted to areas where other foragers exist.
- More natural products. You can use the wax from the honeycombs to make natural products like candles, moisturizing creams, lip balm and even furniture polish.
- Stress reduction. Bees are fascinating to watch, and give insight into how a health community functions.
- New friends. Beekeepers tend to be generous with their knowledge, and share experiences and ideas with others through beekeeping clubs.
Want to learn more? Check with your local extension office or local beekeeping groups. And meet a country woman who keeps bees for fun and honey.