A couple of years ago I turned a little area of my yard into a bird, bee, butterfly, and bug paradise. My motivation was twofold, one, I like birds, bees, butterfly’s, and bugs and two, it was less yard I had to mow.
Following the guidelines of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation (www.scwf.org/carolina-fence-gardens) I created an area for our urban wildlife that includes food, water, cover, and places to raise young. I also got a nifty sign designating my little patch of earth a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
I am three years into it now and I have really enjoyed watching some of these marvelous creatures make themselves at home in our backyard. My little plot has transformed from a patch of weeds as my wife first called it, into quite the oasis. But despite all the wonderful wildflowers, and flowering shrubs I planted I noticed that I was missing one creature, honeybees.
In a little town north of us there is a bee supply shop. One Saturday afternoon my wife and I went into the shop and I asked the owner, why don’t I have any honeybees in my yard or garden? His answer was very direct, there are no more wild bees. That really did not make any sense to me. There seems to be plenty of bumblebees, wasp, ladybugs, and mosquitoes so what was the problem with bees? Well at that point I got a lesson in everything honeybees.
I won’t bore you with all the facts I learned but I did find this tidbit interesting, honeybees are not native to North America. They were brought by European immigrants in the 17th century. Who knew? Anyway, Mr. Bee Shop guy said unless someone in my neighborhood had a beehive close by it was highly unlikely that I would see any bees in my yard. So, I decided to change that.
For Christmas, my kids enrolled me in Bee Class, a crash course on how to be a Beekeeper. After the class I read four or five Bee books, subscribed to Bee Newsletters, joined the local Bee Club, and talked to guys I knew that kept bees, two of them tried to talk me out of it. By March I was ready to dive headfirst into the Bee world. I spent $250 on Bee stuff, a hive, protective clothing, tools and another $200 on a box of Bees. Seriously, $200 for 5,000 bees and Queen. Eight months later I now have two hives, probably 50,000-60,000 bees and hours, upon hours of entertainment and the occasional sting or two.
I understand now why two of the guys tried to talk me out of it. Keeping Bees is not a passive hobby. It requires work, thought, planning, and vigilance. For the most part they take care of themselves, but they do need some help from time to time. There are pests, and mites that they need help battling. When food sources are scarce, they need to be feed. If the Queen is not doing her job, which is laying hundreds of eggs a day and having her every need attended too, a change needs to happen. Sometimes the lady’s take care of it themselves other times the beekeeper must open-up his wallet and buy them a new Monarch which I did for the hive I split.
All in all, it has been a very interesting year with my bees. It has given me something to do, something to focus on other than politics and COVID. I also noticed one very remarkable benefit, my vegetable garden was much more prolific this year than in years past, more cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and beans. Were my bees responsible for this bounty or was it just a coincidence? Hard to know for sure but I do feel better knowing these little ladies are hard at work in my little patch of the world.