What's This Buzz About Urban Beekeeping?

photo credit: Irina Tischenko / Istock photo credit: Irina Tischenko / Istock Bees. They play a crucial role in pollination: put simply, it's been estimated that one of every three foods in the American diet is reliant on pollination by bees. And, in case you've missed the news in the past three years, the humble honey bee, and all its pollinating glory, is in serious crisis.

Can chemistry help the honey bee?

2009 had the worst honey crop on record, and lack of bees to pollinate means crop shortages, bumping up the cost of simple things (like almonds). Enter average gardeners, who are doing everything from planting bee-friendly plants in their gardens to keeping bees themselves.

Save the bees! Five ways you can help.

Our bee expert Kim Flottum uncomplicates the process of beekeeping for beginners with these simple steps.

1. Check zoning regulations in your area to make sure keeping bees is even legal. Then, start with your backyard or rooftop. Make sure no one in your family has allergies and talk to the neighbors. Enduring the undying dislike or distrust of your next door neighbor isn't worth the trouble.

Lure neighbors with the promise of local honey-and all its associated health benefits.

2. Make a hive stand of treated 2x4s and cement blocks, elevating the hives about 18 inches or so off the ground to protect them from skunks. Leave room between each hive to place the covers and honey supers when examining the hives later in the season. Imagine a honey bee colony as a sphere, which is the way your bees will construct their nest: Honey on top, pollen surrounding the brood nest and brood near the bottom.

Five questions for urban beekeepers, answered.

3. Get a full bee suit and gloves. While you may require less protection in the future, we encourage you to wear all the protective gear you feel necessary. If you are uncomfortable you will soon find excuses not to go to the hive ... and your days as a beekeeper are numbered.

Learn to love honey bees.

4. There are basically three kinds that are commonly available and good for beginners. Italians are gentle, easy to manage, and the most common bee available. Carniolans are a bit more demanding, but they winter better where winters are harsh. Russian bees are known for their gentle, somewhat erratic nature. They are a bit more complicated to manage, but they are tolerant of, and resistant to, varroa mites.

Bees that don't produce honey: read up on these super-pollinating native bees.

5. Bees live on vertical-hanging beeswax sheets that hang inside the boxes you will get. These sheets are suspended at the top by a bar of wood that just fits into a groove at the top of the box, with the other three sides of the beeswax sheet enclosed in a 'frame' of wood to keep it secure so it doesn't bend.

CHECK OUT THE FULL BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO BEEKEEPING.

NEED INSPIRATION? SEE THESE AMAZING FEATS OF URBAN BEEKEEPING.

Have a beekeeping success story of your own? Share it with us!

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