For me the next step from native and organic gardening is Beekeeping. You’ve probably gathered that I have a fondness for supporting the wildlife around me. Bees, in particular, need more help than most. I’m sure that many of you have heard about colony collapse disorder, varroa mite infestation etc weakening bee populations. Have I said bees need help!
Without pollinators many crops, especially commercial crops, will fail. From everything I’ve read it seems like the backyard beekeeper is a very strong link in the overall food production chain. What I hadn’t considered it the fact that I can expect my own garden to improve and become more bountiful. I’ll let you know next summer if that’s the case.
Local Resources for Beekeepers
Stuart and I have been reading, researching and talking about beekeeping for a couple of years. I had made contact with the Comal County Beekeepers Association at the start of this journey but didn’t continue as I wasn’t nearly ready at that time. I think it’s vital to make contact with the beekeepers in your local area – there’s a lot of expertise there from people all too ready to share and help. The Texas Beekeepers Association can help you find your local group – there’s nearly 60 groups in Texas.
This Fall we decided that the time was right – we’d start in the Spring! One of my friends, Melissa, has been a beekeeper for 3 years. One visit talking about bees and a taste of her raw honey convinced me to move forward become an actual beekeeper. Oops – nearly missed the boat! We suddenly realized that we had to order our bees NOW! Several suppliers that she recommended were already sold out! Online research and some phone calls followed.
I found The Bee Place in Somerset, TX and had a good phone conversation with them before ordering my bees. They are registered with and permitted by the Texas Apiary Inspection Service, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University – confidence that they are a good supplier and will be a good resource to get me going as a new beekeeper.
Please note that I'm using this company based on their credentials and good feelings on my part. As a "not quite yet" beekeeper I am not in a place to make personal recommendations (yet!).
Brief panic before the calm! I’m positive that this will not be our only panic moment – time will tell!
Becoming a Beekeeper
At this point in time we have our bees on order for April collection, class is booked and Stuart is planning on building my hive over the winter. I was recommended Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston (ISBN 978-1-119-31006-8). as a great place to start. It’s been read several times already and I’m sure will be quite worn by April. This is not the only book out there to help new beekeepers but it’s one I like and am using right now.
There are several options for getting your first bees – we have chosen to buy an “nuc hive” – a small hive of Italian bees that should grow to 60,000 bees by the end of next summer. I’m not going to give them all names!
I’ll talk more about our preparations in later blogs. We have 6 months to be absolutely ready for the girls’ arrival. It’s a very exciting prospect but also a little scary. It’s important that we do our best for our bees to make sure they have a good life with us.
PS I’m also looking forward to harvesting our own honey – to delight family and friends.