Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Beekeeping: Choosing a Property

My bees have arrived. I am officially the proud owner of approximately 20,000 bees. Oh. My. Gosh. Details on their arrival coming soon.

When I originally made the commitment to becoming a beekeeper, I had no idea where my bees were going to live. Of course, they were going to live in a hive, but our backyard wasn't really an ideal place to keep the hives. So I posted an ad on Craig's List, asking for a place to keep my bees. It didn't take long to realize, this wasn't going to be as hard as I anticipated. I received multiple offers and decided to set up meet and greets to check out the properties. As advised by my instructors, you should never pay anyone to "rent" their property. Farmers and gardeners are always willing to "rent" property in return for pollination and maybe a few jars of honey at the end of the season.

I narrowed my options down pretty quickly and in the end, convenience won out. I was deciding between two properties and although they were both great options, one was a 30 minute commute and the other 10 minutes away. Distance was important to me since it is recommended you visit your hive once a week during the first year of beekeeping.

I am happy to report, my bees officially have a home on a farm in Johnstown, Colorado.

Things to keep in mind when choosing your bee location:
  • Sunlight: Your bees should be in a location where their entrance can face the South (Southeast). In the Spring and Summer the morning sunlight encourages them to leave the hive and get a head start on collecting pollen and nectar. In the Winter, they receive the full benefit of the sun's rays so they have to do less work to keep the hive warm.
    • Although sunlight is important, too much of it can be harmful and cause the hive to overwork to maintain the appropriate temperature. Our instructors suggested having some kind of coverage/shield in one direction of the hive, so they are not in the full sun.
  • Shield: It is important to provide a wind break at the back of the hive, to give them some protection against strong (winter) winds. This also offers some amount of shade so they are not in full-time sun.
  • Drainage: The hive should be level from side-to-side, but the front of the hive should be slightly lower, for rainwater to drain. One inch is sufficient.
  • Water: Bees need a water source. During foraging season they use the water to dilute thick honey and cool the hive during hot summers. Interesting huh? If you are unable to find a property with a water source nearby (lake, river, stream, reservoir), there are other alternatives and ways that you can provide them water - google is a great resource.
  • Easy Access: Position your hive so that you can easily access it. When it is time to harvest your honey, the supers can weigh over 40lbs, so you don't want to be hauling them a mile back to your vehicle.
  • Floral Source: This isn't necessarily a requirement since your bees will travel miles to gather the nectar they like most, however, this could influence the flavor of your honey. So if you'd like to harvest a specific kind of honey, then you will need to put your colony of bees in the midst of that preferred source.

I almost opted out of becoming a beekeeper this year because I stressed I wouldn't find a place to keep them. Lucky for the bees, Craig's List saved their life.

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