A Backyard Beehive How-To Guide

, Posted: Tue, August 27 2013 at 6:27 PM, Updated: Tue, August 27 2013 at 7:17 PM

The City of Ashland has decided that residents can keep bees in the backyard, but if you're interested in getting a hive up and running where do you start?

Laura Bee Ferguson, Director of the College of the Melissae, the Center for Sacred Beekeeping said it's not that hard.

"All you really need is some type of hive box, a hive tool to open your hive and an adequate veil, which could even be a mosquito net over a hat. So you really don't need that much equipment," said Ferguson.

Other things a beginner beekeeper will need: a bee suit (especially important if you don't want to get stung), a bee box, and potentially a smoker to help calm the bees when you're working inside the hive. After the basics are taken care of, queen bees can be purchased from local biodynamic breeders like John Jacobs with Old Sol Apiaries, who select queen bees for their disease resistance.

In total, Ferguson estimated that a beginner kit could cost about $250.

The Grange Co-Op has some basic supplies, and often people can go online to find some reasonably priced items. Ferguson said Shastina Millwork in White City also carries affordable bee boxes.

Ferguson's Biggest Tip: Get Educated

However, the one big idea to remember when starting out? Get educated on how to be a responsible beekeeper.

"Bees can take care of themselves [but] this hive is here because I put it here. Providing the environment that's healthy for them is our prime directive as beekeepers," said Ferguson.

According to Ferguson, the beekeeping community is strong in the Rogue Valley.

"We have a strong mentorship program in our area," she said.

There are also multiple beekeeping classes available in the Rogue Valley.

Backyard Bees Come with Big Benefits

In addition to honey that some people harvest, Ferguson said having honeybees in the yard will mean some big benefits.

"Great thing about having pollinator close to your garden is that you'll see about a 40% yield in both your garden crops and neighboring flowers so immediately you're going to have a more beautiful neighborhood."

Bees and the Bigger Picture

Ferguson said with taking care of bees, also comes the responsibility of taking care of the environment.

"The health of our bees is based on the health of our environment," she said as she pointed out the important role honeybees play.

"You need this insect to pollinate this plant, which creates this soil, which grows that tree, which supports that mammal. It's a completely interconnected thing. So taking care of the bee is a great start."

She said if the environment goes downhill, so does the honeybee population.

"I don't care how many boxes we put in the yard, if we don't clean up our environment then we will continue to see devastating losses of bees."

Even if people are unable to have bees in their backyards or don't want to have a hive, there are other ways they can help keep the environment healthy for bees.

"If you love the idea of bees in your neighborhood, then plant a whole bunch of flowers that will bloom in late season like August or September," said Ferguson.

Want to Learn More and Connect with Local Beekeepers?

Wild Bee International will be holding a one-day conference at South Medford High School on September 7th from 1-4pm. That's where you can learn more about beekeeping and network with other beekeepers in the Rogue Valley. Tickets to the event are available at this website: http://www.wildbeeinternational.com/

Another good resource for Rogue Valley bee information is the bee girl website: http://www.beegirl.org/ 

To take classes or get more information from Laura Bee Ferguson, visit her website: http://www.collegeofthemelissae.com/Home_Page.html

Beginning Beekeeping tips can also be found on the American Beekeeping Federation's website: http://www.abfnet.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=34

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