Last winter, as my husband was laying out his plans for the farm this year, he said a few words I had a hard time believing at first.
"We're going to start keeping bees."
Now understand that when we first started this whole farming venture after my husband lost his job, I felt pretty confident that we could do just about anything we set our minds to. Chickens? Pigs? Even a cow or a few goats someday? If we can squeeze it on to our little three acres, I'm all for it. But seriously, bees? What would you have said to that?
Naturally, I said, "Sure, honey."
No pun intended.
As long as you're not allergic to bee stings, just about anyone can do it, and in fact, many people are, including city folks. When I was in Kansas City last March, one of the few bright spots was talking to one of the hospice nurses and finding out that she had just finished a class on urban beekeeping and was getting ready for her first colony, too. In places like Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, and Portland (ME), more people are setting up "backyard hives". Even New York City, London and Tokyo are reporting an increased interest in beekeeping.
Why all the sudden interest? Well, several reasons, really. As The New York Times reported last December, there is a "growing desire for homegrown and organic food," and an "urge to stem the worrisome decline in the nation's bee population." And as my husband and I have become more aware of the evils of GMOs, our decision to become as self-sufficient as possible has increased ten-fold. When looked at in that light, keeping bees doesn't just make good sense, it becomes vital.
We've had our bees for about a month now and I can honestly tell you that of all the things we do here, beekeeping is (so far) the easiest of them all. We've only got 10,000 right now (which sounds like a lot, but really isn't), so it's going to be awhile before we can really get a usable amount of honey or beeswax from them. (And if you don't already know, beeswax is terrific stuff for making candles...one of our personal reasons for wanting bees.) But they seem to be doing really well in their new home, and I'm happy with that. A little sugar water, plenty of pollen to gather, and a little respect is all it takes.
Make that a lot of respect.
"Unique among all God's creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species." ~ Royden Brown