Those with experience in gardening recognize that fewer numbers of honey bees visit blooming fruit trees than in the past. Reduced populations have been blamed on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The origins of CCD are unknown, but a survey of beekeepers who manage 15 percent of the hives in the United States indicates that 30 percent of their colonies were lost during the 2010 to 2011 winter. This rate of loss has been relatively consistent over the past five years and far exceeds the 13 percent loss of hives considered normal.
With all the concern about the reduction in honey bee numbers and an increased interest in self-sufficiency, more people want to try their hand at raising honey bees. Those who order their first package of bees will quickly find they are surprisingly docile. The queen comes in her own little cage, and once she is placed in the hive, the rest of the bees are literally dumped in with her. Usually within a day, the bees are out foraging and come back with their leg baskets bulging with orange pollen. In a week or so, they build white wax combs with six-sided cells where honey and pollen are stored and the queen can lay eggs. Around three weeks later, the first new bees will usually hatch and the hive population will soar. It's thrilling to go out on a summer evening and watch them work.
This may all sound idealistic and a little romantic, and in many ways it is ? when everything goes as planned. However, there are things to be aware of before beginning to raise bees. Consider these tips.
* As a hobby, it costs money rather than making it. Each hive costs about $200 to build and supply with a package of bees. Additional expenses include protective clothing, extracting equipment and the space to store unused bee boxes. There is also the very real risk of getting stung ? usually several times. For those with a bee sting allergy, this can be life threatening, so it is definitely something to be aware of.
* Once the bees establish the hive, they become more protective of their honey stores, and some bees are genetically more prone to aggression. If you end up with what is termed an "angry hive," replace the queen as soon as possible. Hives that are aggressive can cause serious pain to pets and neighbors. In order to have zoning ordinances that allow honey bees in residential areas, beekeepers must be careful in managing their colonies to prevent the bees from becoming a nuisance to those who live nearby.
* Reading books on the subject as well as attending workshops can help. The ideas and support of an enthusiastic partner can help bolster your confidence.
Â SU Extension bee specialist Cory Stanley has developed a bee website. For further information, visit it at: http://utahpests.usu.edu/bees/htm/beekeeping-discussion-forum.