As we embrace the outdoors and our gardens with gusto, one item to ensure the most beautiful blooms may be off your radar: honeybees. Yes, while backyard chickens have had their fair share of press, backyard honeybees are starting to catch on. Perhaps it’s the allure of being able to harvest a little honey to battle allergies a natural way, or helping to maintain the world’s supply of honeybees. Whatever the reason, this growing trend is one that has participants all abuzz over the buzz in their own backyards.
Jennifer Johnston joins us today to tell us about what she recently learned on a educational trip to beekeeper Jodi Banks’ Forest Hills home, to check out the bees.
How do you get 10,000 new best friends? Set up a backyard beehive!
Let’s start with seven compelling reasons to embark on this sweet hobby:
- Spring is the best time to establish a hive.
- Busy bees will pollinate your flowers, creating dramatically more and better blooms.
- Raising honeybees helps the earth replace a dwindling species.
- Once the hive is established, you may be able to harvest some honey.
- Bees are fascinating to watch.
- It’s easier than you think to raise honeybees in your backyard.
- Honeybees are Tennessee’s official state insect.
A few weeks ago, I visited with backyard beekeeper Jodi Banks at her gorgeous cabin in Forest Hills. It was fascinating to find out how to set up a beehive and why I’m hearing of more and more people finding such pleasure in this activity. Jodi actually spends the long, cold days of winter dreaming and studying about bees. She’s had successes and disappointments but showed me the basics on getting started.
She recommends scoping out a good, sunny spot before setting up the hive(s). Ensure you have a water source – even a birdbath will do. Next, pre-order boxes, the frames, bees and other supplies from local or Internet suppliers.
Learn as much as you can ahead of time. Kelley Beekeeping provides a great on-line Q&A for newBEES. Locally, monthly classes are available at Ellington Agricultural Center, through the Nashville Area Beekeepers Association, and sometimes at local aviaries. (The April meeting at Ellington is Sunday April 13th, 2014, at 2 p.m.) YouTube is also a great resource to bee-come informed about raising bees. (This particular video took me back to my 7th grade science class. I could just picture Mr. Martin struggling to thread the film onto the reel.)
Bees do best when they’re mostly left alone, but some care and feeding (in the form of simple syrup) is needed every few weeks. Bees are susceptible to diseases and pests. You can use your search engine to find specialists who will help tend the hive or move swarming honeybees, but Jodi says she learns best from doing it on her own, even when she makes mistakes along the way.
Jodi confirms that new beekeepers will suffer some failures. This is why she teams for moral support, and fun, with friend, landscape architect and all-around nature lover Tara Armistead. They are equal partners in the hives at both their homes.
Jodi has a big place, but you don’t need a large area to raise bees. When bees come out of the hive they go up, ranging over a five-mile area, explains Tara. She has watched bees enter and exit a hive just a few feet from passersby, who rarely even notice. No need to worry about getting stung. In fact, Jodi and Tara have each only been stung once. They blame it on overconfidence and tangled hair, which led to not wearing their bee gear and resulted in a single sting each.
As an added bonus to partnering with backyard hives is the zen time of a shared cocktail when finished. The two have been known to check the hives together in the evening, followed by Jodi’s restorative cocktail:
Sunset Beekeeping Cocktail:
- Simple syrup (aka bee food)
Both say raising honeybees has been one of the most fun and rewarding hobbies ever and they are excited to inspire a new cadre of BEE-lievers. Are you ready to join the hive?
- Kelley Beekeeping
- Tennessee Beekeepers Organization
- Nashville Area Beekeepers Association
- Wolf Creek Apiaries
- Books: The Beekeeper’s Bible, The Backyard Beekeeper, The Beekeeper’s Handbook