Keeping animals in the city can be challenging. Local ordinances and zoning issues, the risk of annoying your neighbors, as well as a shortage of space all present obstacles to urban animal husbandry.
Bee keeping, on the other hand, can be done in a very small space and despite their fearsome reputation – bees don’t tend to sting people unless they are severely provoked. Bees can be a fun, tasty and profitable part of any urban farming project or homesteading project.
A steady supply of fresh honey is a sweet treat that will thrill your friends and family. And put some extra cash in your wallet as well.
And any plants in the locality will get properly pollinated thanks to your bees!
Jump in and enjoy our short guide to beekeeping for beginners.
The Tools Of The Beekeeping Trade
You don’t need much to get into beekeeping and, excluding the costs of setting up the hive itself, you shouldn’t spend much more than $100 to get everything you need.
The good news is that these items tend to last a fair amount of time and you can reuse a hive for years – so, you won’t face much of an outlay again.
- A beekeeping jacket – Sure, you could buy a full beekeeping suit, but you don’t need one, just make sure that the jacket comes with a full hood and veil to protect your face and eyes. You’ll find that as long as you’re careful they won’t sting. Cost? Less than $50.
- Beekeeping gloves – You need a pair of strong but supple leather beekeeping gloves which are usually made from goat leather. Cost? Less than $20.
- A bee smoker – This isn’t for hurting bees but the cool white smoke that it creates stops the bees from sending angry pheromonal signals to each other while you’re working on the hive and thus, reduces the chances of you getting stung. Cost? Less than $20.
- A bee hive tool – this is basically a miniature crowbar that allows you to separate the frames within so that you can remove any contaminating material. Cost? Less than $20.
And that’s it!
Two Things You MUST Do Before Starting With Beekeeping
OK, before you rush out to buy your beekeeping gear there are two things that every would-be beekeeper must do before they get started.
- You have to talk to the city and to the people who live nearby. Your city may not allow you to keep bees or there may be a huge bunch of regulations that you’ve got to follow. Many places will also have a restriction on how many hives you can have and often on the species of bee you’re permitted to keep (Africanized bees, which can be a bit aggressive are often banned). You also want to ensure that your neighbors aren’t going to freak out – offer bribes of honey where necessary.
- You need to pick the right place for them to live. You can’t just dump a hive on your front doorstep. You want somewhere that you can inspect regularly, and it must be somewhere safe. So, no installing a hive on your fire escape for example! On a rooftop – you will need to strap the hives down so that they don’t blow over.
Your Choice Of Beehives
Bees don’t much care what kind of hive they live in but you might. There are two choices of beehive and each has its merits and drawbacks they are:
- Langstroth beehives. These are essentially a bunch of boxes placed on top of each other. To grow the hive, you just pop another box on the top which makes them super for rapid scaling. They are also without a doubt the top choice for hive for an urban beekeeper but don’t forget if you let them grow too big – they can become super heavy.
- Top bar beehives. These hives work on a horizontal system rather than a vertical one – they are still expandable, but they expand out not up and tend to naturally limit their own size before they get too heavy. They simulate a natural environment better than Langstroth beehives do but can be quite tricky to build and maintain, particularly if you are just getting started.
5 Tips For Better Urban Beekeeping
We leave you with five simple tips to keep your bees successfully in an urban environment! Good luck!
- Buy the bees from approved dealers – They do cost more, but they are guaranteed to be healthy and to have been reared in an ethical fashion. Check out Mountain Sweet Honey. Or search for a local beekeeper in your region.
- Never buy used equipment – This might be contaminated with disease agents and could kill your bees. Bee keeping gear is cheap enough without it.
- Join a beekeeping community – The best way to share information and to learn what your location demands of bees is to join the community. Be proactive!
- Never neglect the bees – They need weekly inspections and maintenance, no excuses or they may all die off in a couple of days when parasites invade.
- Always have more than one colony – Tthis lets you experiment a little and see what the effect on one colony is before rolling it out to the other one.
Looking for fun DIY Projects you can do at home in the city? Check out our guide to building your own terrarium here.