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NEWS

Honeycomb hideout!

DIY beehives make Orlando backyards sweeter

Photo: Ralph Giunta, License: N/A

Ralph Giunta


For the honey guy, this was more than just a loss of workers to supply his customers with their golden goods; it was an unfortunate waste of effort for both him and the bees.

But it was also a lesson that all new beekeepers need to learn. The typical annual yield for one well-managed hive can be between 70 and 100 pounds of honey. But to get those kinds of results, Willingham says, you've got to practice the art of patience.

"You can't be in a hurry, " he says. "You can't rush the bees. Because of that, I think when you go out to the yard, you just tend to relax yourself. You don't really keep track of time. Really, you just lose track of time when you're with the bees."

Urban beekeeping start-up guide

Essentials

• A medium-sized beehive (available in beekeeping supply stores)

• A smoker (smoke calms bees, so a keeper can work without alarming them)

• A veil (to protect your face, which is the most vulnerable part of you should the bees attack)

• Frame feeder (to keep the bees fed and healthy during the dormant period in the winter)

• 10,000-20,000 bees (Italian breeds recommended; they are shipped live)

• Water supply (a small fountain or birdbath will do)

Costs

• Initial investment of $250 in equipment (including a 31-pound package of bees, approximately $85).

• Most of your time investment comes in building your hive. When the hive is built or bought, you install the bees by first setting the queen behind a feeder, so that the rest of the bees must eat through the feeder to get to her. This ensures that the bees accept the queen because they become used to her smell.

• Once you start your hive, it's best not to check up on it too much, because it disturbs the bees. Check in on your bees once every two to three weeks to check for pests and disease.

Tips

• You don't need a lot of space to start a hive, but you should have a fenced-in yard to keep curious neighbors away. Face the hive toward a tall fence or bush, so that the bees fly high when leaving the hive and avoid human contact.

• Bees forage up to three miles from the hive, so you don't need to keep a garden as a nectar source.

Do not feed your bees when they are producing honey; only feed bees during the dormant seasons.

• Keep a shallow water supply nearby the hive.

• Keeping a small fountain or birdbath can ensure that your bees don't choose a neighbor's pool as their preferred watering hole.

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