Hootenanny Homestead

A Homesteading Journey

Category: Bees (page 2 of 2)

Mason Bees: Solitary Native Bees for the Homestead

A few days back I got a guest post put up on another great homesteading website, Small Town Homestead.  The owner does the Modern Homesteading Podcast that I had mentioned back in my podcast post.   I wrote a bit on mason bees and thought I would share a bit more information here.  Now I don’t think that I will be giving up on honeybees and I would still recommend that if you have the space and the inclination it is worth trying your hand at keeping bees.  So let’s compare honeybees with their native counterparts…the mason bee.
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Time to Prepare for Spring Bees

If you have been considering getting bees, now is a good time to do some prep work.  I’ve written in the past about reasons to keep bees.  As a short recap, honey bees make honey and pollinate crops.  Is it the easiest thing to do, no, it does take work.  It isn’t exactly hard or challenging.  You will need to lift some boxes, some that are full of honey can be rather heavy, but there are ways to work with smaller boxes that will be less weight per box.
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A Bee Hive Update: Prepping for Winter

Now that we have moved into fall it is time to think about the winter.  Yes, it might still be a few months away, but if you don’t prep now your colony will die.  The thing is that for the most part you won’t be bothering your bees during the winter, they are somewhat on their own.  But overwintering bees can be one of the biggest challenges that a beekeeper will face.  And now is a critical time to make sure they are ready (aren’t they all critical times?)
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Hootenanny Hives: How I got from Newly Acquired Bees to Here

So in the last bee post I told you about the process up to getting my hives filled with bees.  Let’s dive into a few months of beekeeping.  Seems that I didn’t really take all that great of notes to begin with, I’ve been trying to change that.  I’ve heard on a podcast (the beekeepers corner) that he had developed a hive inspection checklist, which I think would be a good idea.  I’ll have to see if I can find one or develop my own.  Once I do I’ll either put a link or share it on here.
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The Origin Story of My Bee Hives

It might seem a bit odd.  Going from a normal everyday guy, someone that enjoyed all sorts of high tech toys and the like to a beekeeper.  And I hadn’t really gotten into this homesteading thing yet.  I had no big garden.  There was no passionate dream of with my hives I’ll save the world from the decline of the honey bee.  So then, how did I get here?  And just what did I get myself into.  Let me walk you through.
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Why Keep Bees? My Top 5 Reasons for Keeping Honey Bees.

My mother in law does not like bees.  It’s not that she is afraid per say, she is not allergic, she just doesn’t like them.  There are plenty of people in the world like her.  If you choose to keep bees, you’ll have people wonder why on earth you’d want to keep bees.  After all you are inviting about 60 thousand flying stinging untrained animals to live with you.  Some people may not understand why you would want to have any part of that.  Now I can’t tell you why you should keep bees.  I can only tell you why I keep bees and perhaps a few reasons I’ve read that other people have claimed as to why they keep bees.  So without any further ado, let’s dive into some reasons why I keep bees.

Bees Are Amazing

Reasons to Keep BeesThis one took me by surprise.  I had done research and read some books before taking the plunge, but it didn’t quite prepare me for how fascinating bees are to watch.  It is amazing to watch them as they stand out in front of the hive entrance, watching bees fly in, see how much and what color pollen they’ve brought back.  Then you open the hive and see bees crawling all over the honey comb.  Every now and then you see a bee crawl out of its cell, emerging into the world for the first time.  I lose track of time and forget how long I’ve had the hive open up.  Then why I’m out in the garden I’ll see some of the girls buzzing from flower to flower.


This is the easiest reason to come up with.  Honey bees make honey (it’s not quite rocket science is it?)  A lot of people will want to keep bees, thinking it will be like that old Donald Duck cartoon, dipping a ladle into the hive and pulling out fresh clean honey.

Well yes, bees will make honey.  If things go very very well, you might even get honey your very first year of raising bees.  However most likely the first year the bees will just make honey for themselves.  Even when they make honey for you to harvest it is not just turn the tap and enjoy fresh honey.  (I’ve seen the flow hive, I’ve also seen the videos of the flow hive leaking, I’m not quite sold just yet).  Yes, if you keep honey bees properly you will get wonderful fresh, unprocessed, unmucked with honey.  Plus it’s a great reason for keeping bees.

Pollinate Your Garden

Honey Bees are excellent pollinators.  There are all sorts of facts and figures about how much bees pollinate.  According to theNRDC honey bees 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of the wild plants on the planet.  The USDA’s Forest Service has put out a pamphlet that says bees (not just honey bees) are responsible for 75% of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in this country.  I could go on, but the point is the same.  I can’t tell you exactly what percentage of the food we eat is pollinated by bees, but there is a chunk of it.  What’s more important for the homesteader, gardener or eating of fresh vegetables is that garden + bees will yield more veggies then just having a garden.

Other Bee Products

Yes, everyone thinks of honey, but bees produce a lot more than just that.  The next best known is beeswax.  You can use it for candles, lotions, furniture polish and so on and so forth.  We’ll go into more details on other things to do with beeswax in the future.  But there are other bee products, propolis, royal jelly can also be harvested.  If you are really looking for other products to make money from your hives you can also raise queens or raise your own packages or nucs to sell to other prospective bee keepers.  Many people are interested in queens that are raised in their own area, since those queens are more accustom to your particular climate.

To Save the World

Keeping BeesI have no doubt that you have heard that honey bees are declining.  Colony Collapse Disorder has a large number of hives dying off.  Of course people aren’t helping either.  When you spray insect killers that wipe out bugs indiscriminately, you’ll kill bees as well.  Also when farmers plant acre upon acre of a single crop that all blooms at the same time you limit when the bees can find food.  If you plant flowers and crops that bloom over a season the bees will have more choices of where and when they can eat.  Also if wild bees are dying if you and I each keep a few hives and take care of them, we can all help to add some more bees to even out those wild ones that are dying off.


Are these the reasons that you should keep bees?  Maybe yes, maybe no, I can’t tell you.  These are some of the reasons that I started raising bees.  I’ll come to expand on them in the future.  Even if you don’t choose to keep bees yourself there are other things that you can do to help out these critters.  If you are looking into getting your own bees, why do you want to?  If you keep bees, be it one hive or 40 some, why did you get into bees?  And why are you still keeping them?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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