A Guide To Backyard Beekeeping
Bees and human beings have co-evolved over many thousands of years and in the last century the relationship has spawned a global industry.
Recent times have seen a boom in urban farming and sustainable living, putting hobby beekeeping firmly back on the agenda.
For a yield of fresh, natural honey up to three times a year depending on the climate and general health of the hive, beekeeping is a relatively low-demand interest.
It can also be accommodated in small spaces and city environments.
Our suburban landscapes and cities have plenty of nectar-rich flowers and bees will happily produce honey and serve in their essential role as nature’s pollinators.
Most of us try to avoid them, but without bees our natural ecosystems would collapse.
Worldwide, bees are responsible for pollinating a third of all crops, including orchard fruits, nuts and most vegetables.
Industrialisation within agriculture has brought dramatic changes for the lives of bees and large-scale beekeeping has become big business.
Because wild bee populations have dwindled dramatically while the demand for crops has skyrocketed, commercial apiarists keep thousands of colonies and rent them to farmers to pollinate crops.
This leads to bees being transported thousands of kilometres and then introduced to new and often hostile environments, which threatens the bees and hastens the spread of disease.
Just this year, the Californian almond harvest, source of much of the world’s supply, was under threat because there were simply not enough bees to pollinate the plants.
Scientists and theorists put forward many reasons for the great decline.
Global climate change, pesticides used on crops, decline of wild habitats, a hive-destroying insect called the small hive beetle, and a nasty parasite called the varroa mite all play significant roles.
As does monoculture, or forcing bees to pollinate only one species of plant, which happens commercially.