I remember the family beehives from childhood– smoldering cotton sending puffs of smoke from granddad’s smoker, jars of comb submerged in amber, chewing the honeyed wax like gum. I always knew I wanted to continue the tradition but I thought living in a subdivision meant no bees for me.
I was happy to learn I could have a couple of hives even in the ‘burbs. No, I haven’t asked city hall. Sometimes a person just assumes the best about one’s municipality ;). What I mean is, beekeepers have had good success in urban and suburban areas.
The next obstacle has been expense. Upwards of $200 for a basic hive and equipment and bees. I could buy a lot of local honey for that. I could build my own hive, but plans for traditional hives were daunting. I wasn’t sure my skills or my shop would be up to the challenge.
While nosing around the web I found something called a “Top Bar” beehive. The plans were simple and the philosophy was right up my alley–“whole-wheat bees” as someone characterized them when I described Top Bar, or Warre beekeeping, “natural beekeeping.”
I’m no expert on the subject by any means, but the basic tenet seems to be that if you let the bees form their comb freeform in their own way, more or less, and intervene less in the lives of the bees, the hives will be healthier and more resistant to pestilence. Healthier hives=less fuss for the keeper.
I am still learning about this method and about bees in general. This is my first foray into beekeeping and I have no idea whether I will have any success or not, but I have hopes.
The first step for me is building the hive. While there are all sorts of possible ways to use this method, from flowerpots to 50 gallon drums, I followed this basic plan.
Here’s our hive:
These are the top bars. The one on top is shown upside down so you can see the beeswax-filled kerf which is supposed to give the bees a place to start building their combs:
I went to a meeting of my local beekeeping association and to my surprise my neighbor across the way was there. Yep, he’s a beekeeper. He keeps it quiet. The things we do in the suburbs. I guess we need a secret handshake.
Now all I need is some bees. My neighbor says he will try to catch me a swarm. Keeping my fingers crossed.