In today’s climate, the necessity of taking care of and protecting our bees has never been so urgent.
Bees are the world’s most effective pollinators. It’s estimated that bees are responsible for pollinating up to 80% of the plant-based foods that we humans eat.
Moreover, bees contribute to the production of other products besides food, such as cotton. And, of course, they produce honey and beeswax, which humans have been using for centuries.
Keeping bees in your backyard is one of the best and most beneficial methods of helping the bee population and ensuring the health of your garden.
By putting a beehive in your backyard, you’ll be providing a safe space for bees to populate and pollinate. In return, the bees will benefit the plant life in your backyard, while teaching you a lot about the cycles of nature and the environment.
Read on to find out how to make your own beehive at home, how many beehives you can safely keep in your backyard, and whether or not honey harvesting is an essential part of beekeeping!
How Do You Make a Beehive at Home?
Making your own beehive for your backyard might sound like a daunting or specialist task, but it’s actually easier than you might think!
Building your own beehive may cost you less than buying one ready-made, and it’s also a great exercise in DIY creativity.
To make a beehive at home, you will need some untreated plywood, a saw, a hammer, plenty of nails, and some wood glue. You will also need to find a blueprint for beehive construction since making a hospitable beehive is a fairly specific process that shouldn’t be entered into blindly.
If you’re planning to collect the honey from the bees residing in your hive, you will need to build a Langstroth hive. Alternatively, if honey isn’t your primary concern, you could build a Top Bar hive.
There are plenty of free plans available online, but if you really want to ensure the best possible quality of results, Howland Blackiston’s Building Beehives for Dummies is an excellent and comprehensive place to seek information and advice.
When building either of these hives, you should start by cutting your wood to the lengths directed by your plan. Make sure to use a ruler and make these pieces exact, or your hive won’t come together seamlessly.
Following the directions set out by your blueprint, you can now start to assemble your hive. Make sure that you follow the prescribed order, or you may find yourself stuck midway through construction.
Usually, you will make individual components of the hive separately before putting them all together. Normally, you’ll start by making the telescoping and inner covers, followed by the superstructure and foundation.
If you want, you can finish your completed hive with some weatherproof paint to extend its longevity. It’s also a good idea to coat the hive in beeswax for disease protection and material preservation.
It’s also vital to leave what is called ‘bee space’ between surfaces. Bee space refers to the ideal amount of room a bee needs to move around in the hive.
If the space between surfaces is less than ¼ -inch, the bees will fill in the gaps with propolis. Over ⅜-inch, however, and what the bee perceives as excess space will be filled with wax comb.
Can I Keep Bees Without Taking the Honey?
Although many beekeepers consider the exchange of honey to be part of the symbiotic relationship between bees and humans, the ethics surrounding the harvesting of honey from beehives is still hotly debated amongst beekeeping and plant-based living communities.
Technically, you can keep bees without taking the honey, although a few factors combine to make this unadvisable in many cases.
If excess honey builds up in a hive, your colony will eventually run out of room and decide to relocate elsewhere, which, presumably, isn’t what you want.
The only way to prevent this is to split up your colony into different as the honey accumulates. However, this isn’t a permanent solution since, eventually, this arrangement will become untenable.
With that being said, there’s no requirement to keep honey bees in the first place if you don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable harvesting the honey.
Mason bees, for example, don’t produce honey, but they’re highly effective pollinators, so you can still enjoy the symbiotic benefits of beekeeping with the dilemma of honey harvesting.
How Many Beehives Can I Have in My Backyard?
How many beehives you can reasonably and safely keep in your backyard entirely depends on how large your yard is and how it is laid out. You should also do your due diligence and check the legal restrictions for beehives in your State since these can vary according to location.
Having too many hives in close proximity to one another may result in the transfer of disease between the hives, which can be detrimental to the bee population.
If you’re planning on keeping honey bees without harvesting the honey, you will need to work out how many hives you can keep so that you can plan for future colony splitting.
Generally speaking, it’s best not to have more than three beehives per quarter acre of backyard space. In Los Angeles, however, the limit is one hive per 2,500 square feet, which comes to up to four hives per quarter acre.
This goes to show the importance of doing your research before setting up your bee colonies so that you can keep your bees safe and yourself out of legal trouble.
Remember to carefully follow a plan when making your own backyard beehive, and look into the hive restrictions and spatial requirements in your local area.
Bear in mind that, in order to safely keep bees in your backyard, you will need to leave enough space between the hives to prevent the spread of disease as well as enough space within the hive for the bees to move around.
Part of keeping bees safely is ensuring that they don’t swarm, which they may do if too much honey accumulates in the hive. If you don’t feel like collecting honey from your hives, it’s best to keep Mason bees, although you can split honey bee colonies as a temporary solution.