guest post by David Calkins
So I’ve always consumed a lot of honey (I drink it. No really. Literally) and have always been interested in getting my own hive. But actually maintaining a hive is kind of a pain. And it’s not really easy. And there are mites. And diseases (for the bees, not for you). And smokers. And bunny suits. So it’s always been more of a pain than it seemed like it was worth.
But you might have recently heard about hive “Colony Collapse Disorder.” As many as 36% of hives in the US have been lost to collapse. Not to sound snarky and state the obvious, but if all our bees go away, most of our agriculture goes away. No more fruit. No more flowers. No more honey. No Mustard, cabbage, vanilla, peppers, canola, cantaloupe, strawberries, alfalfa (horse munchies), almonds, grapes (as in those things used to make wine) or eggplants. (OK, I can personally live without eggplants, but the world should probably keep them.)
So Simone found this Bay Area guy – Allen Larson – who’s “on a mission to provide Northern California with enough honeybees to pollinate most of the inner city limits. [He] needs your help to do this. Your bees in the backyard can pollinate up to a 2 mile radius and can be a big part of bringing the numbers back.”
So I was all about getting a hive. Here’s some of my reasons:
External (altruistic) benefits of keeping bees:
- You help the planet get better. You’re like, green, and all those other cliches.
- Your neighborhood gets prettier. Flowers bloom. Trees blossom. Avocados fall on your head and you eat them.
- See #1, hippie. It’s worth two bullet points
Personal (selfish) benefits of keeping bees:
- Honey! You get about 24-30 pounds of honey per year. It’s tasty, good in tea, on ice cream, etc.
- Allergy cure. This works. I know it sounds hippie, but I had lifetime pollen allergies. Someone told me to eat lots of local, non-pasteurized honey and my allergies would go away. It worked (doesn’t work for animal allergies.) Works on the same principle as the polio vaccine.
- Christmas presents. You’re probably not gonna eat all that honey. Give it to your friends and neighbors.
- Your garden will rock. If you don’t have one, your neighbors garden will rock.
- Beeswax, royal jelly, Honey Comb, and all the other hive benefits.
- You could even sell the honey. You get about $8/pound. So a hive pays for itself after about 2 or 3 years if you sell 100% of the honey.
- Mead! Heck, you gotta do something with all that honey. And making your own booze is always popular with the ladies…
Allen was the perfect solution. I didn’t have to build a wooden hive, mail order a queen, or any other silliness. Allen was awesome. He shows up at your house, brings bee suits for you to wear so you don’t get stung, sets up your hive(s), and then gives you about an hour long lesson not only on bee-keeping, but how bees work (it’s all scent. Workers can find their hive from a mile away strictly from the scent of their queen I did not know that.), which bees are which, you get to play “find the queen” (insert obligatory Castro joke, here), and of course, you get honey. Five pounds of honey.
Then Allen comes back every two weeks or so to tend to your bees, and collect your honey for you. You can do it yourself if you feel like it (it’s your hive), but it’s probably better that you leave it to the pros (same reason I use Laughing Squid Web Hosting to host my robot websites. I’m capable of running my own servers, but I’d really rather have a specialist do it for me.)
So you want a hive yourself? Get Bees. A single hive is $570 if you live in most Bay Area cities (see his site for the list.) This includes your hive, one queen and a skajillion drones and workers, five pounds of honey, and your annual service plan. (And if you get a hive, mention me. ’cause I get free honey for referrals.) I wouldn’t normally post “advertisements” for companies, but I really believe in helping keep humanity around – and bees are a key component of doing that. And Allen strikes me as the guy to help you.
And of course, then there’s the mead we’ll be brewing…
photos by David Calkins