Backyard beekeeping is an interesting hobby that goes a long way toward promoting healthy honeybee populations.
Honeybee’s play a very important role in our everyday lives and many of the foods we consume and the products we purchase wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for our flying friends (yes, that includes our beloved avocado’s). Bees pollinate more than 90% of the leading global crop types, and in South Africa, over 50 crops are dependent on bee pollination. In fact, when evaluating the general health of the environment scientists often use bee colony health as a benchmark. Since 2006, beekeepers have reported higher-than-normal colony losses. Various factors like the use of pesticides, diseases and climate change have contributed to this new reality. Fortunately, there has been a global movement to conserve and protect the bee species.
One such movement has seen many people taking matters into their own hands by becoming backyard beekeepers. Not only is this a great way to support bees and the pollination of crops, it also provides individuals with a much deeper understanding of bees and the vital role they play in the ecosystem.
If you are looking to get into backyard beekeeping there are a couple of practical things you will need to invest in, but first and foremost, the most important thing to know is that beekeeping requires a lot of time, effort and commitment. It is not a task taken lightly. In an interview with Hilary Kearney, she mentioned that one “can’t just set up a beehive and expect it will take care of itself. If they [people] don’t know what they’re walking into, they often end up killing their bees. When your beehive dies, that’s significant. You can actually do harm to other beekeepers in the area. If you let your hives get sick, for example, it can actually spread that to other colonies". So be sure that you are ready to take on this new challenging but rewarding journey.
How to get started:
Educate yourself: You will need to be adequately prepared by taking a beekeeping course (visit: here or here) and investing in some reading material. There are also several Facebook groups and helpful articles and webinars available. To learn more about the history of bees and beekeeping, head over to this article.
Get the essentials: You’ll need to get your hands on the bees and beehives, as well as the protective gear and accessories. Shop here.
Prepare your space: The site where bees are kept is referred to as an apiary. “An apiary needs to be accessible, sheltered, dry and sunny, but not prone to frost. In addition, it needs to be able to provide food and water for honeybees no further than 3 - 5 km from the hive” (source). So you will also need to ensure that your bees do not have to travel long distances for water. Set up a bee-friendly water station and garden.
Register your hive: The South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) represents beekeepers in South Africa and advises all beekeepers to register their hives with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). To read more about the law around beekeeping in South Africa, read this article.
If you have decided to try your hand at backyard beekeeping, please let us know by tagging us on Instagram.