Put a Buzz in your Garden with Bees

Learn the basics of keeping backyard bees to increase garden productivity, and reap sweet rewards.

| October/November 2005


  • Main photo by Rick Wetherbee. Inset photo by David Cavagnaro

  • A beekeeper lifts a honey super to inspect the hive.
    David Cavagnaro
  • Catching a wild swarm is the cheapest way to obtain your winged lifestock, if you know what you're doing.
    David Cavagnaro
  • Worker bees run the hive, feed and clean up after the queen, gather honey, pollen and water, keep the internal temperature of the hive constant, feed the larvae and build all the honey and brood comb.
    Pat Crocker
  • Puffing smoke on a hive makes bees less aggressive.
    Frank Siteman

While honeybees’ sweet byproducts are delicious, their value extends far beyond providing golden honey. Beans, tomatoes, onions and carrots are among hundreds of other vegetables, herbs and fruits that depend on bees for pollination. Bees pollinate about one-sixth of the world’s flowering plant species and about 400 agricultural plants. And when plants are poorly pollinated, they produce fewer fruits and less seeds and thus affect the quality, availability and price of food. So, what can bees do for your garden? Well, quite a bit. Bees in the garden ensure better pollination, so your plants will grow stronger, fuller and healthier. And keeping bees is not a difficult or intimidating task once you know a bit about it.

The Joys of Beekeeping

The picture of a serene individual calmly tending to the “little golden folk” in his or her beehive presents a rare and heartwarming example of how humans can work in cooperation with the natural world. But while experienced beekeepers may lyrically praise the sweetness of both their labors and their harvests, most people find the idea of actually tending a hive to be quite intimidating.

Many people are frightened by the mere thought of approaching a colony of 30,000 to 80,000 stinger-laden and venom-carrying flying insects. And those who do want to learn this seemingly mysterious art find that many beekeeping how-to guides plunge into such bewildering barrages of complicated explanation that they actually add to the readers’ muddle.



But despite the fact that bees have stingers, that many texts do seem (especially at first) to be almost unintelligible, and that no beginner can become an expert beekeeper in a single honey season, it is quite possible for an interested novice to learn to work bees and harvest honey.

As long as there are nectar- and pollen-bearing flowers in your area, you can become a hobbyist beekeeper. Many urban beekeepers keep hives of honey makers on apartment house roofs or in attics. (Before doing so, however, city dwellers should check their local ordinances.)



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