Beekeepers in their own garden

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Honey is delicious and healthy - and beekeepers in your own garden are not that difficult. In addition, bees are among the best pollinators in the insect kingdom. So if you want to do something good for the efficient insects and would like to profit yourself, then a hive in the garden and the beekeeper hat on your head are the right choice. We explain what you need for starting as a beekeeper and everything you should consider when beekeeping in the garden.

Beekeepers in Germany - an overview

The term beekeeper comes from the Low German term "Imme" (bee) and the Central German term "kar" (basket) - ie beehive. For several years, the number of registered beekeepers in the German beekeeper's association has increased and has already exceeded the 100,000 mark. For the bee and the entire fruit and vegetable industry, this is a very positive development, because as reported in 2017, the number of flying insects in recent years has declined by a staggering 75 percent. For all pollinators and landlords, as well as private gardeners, this means that some of their plants may not be pollinated and, accordingly, no fruit may be produced. Therefore, one can only endorse the increasing number of hobby beekeepers.

How to become a beekeeper?

You could say beekeepers are not difficult, beekeepers are very. Because actually only a garden, a hive, a bee colony and some equipment is needed for the activity. The restrictions on the part of the legislator are manageable. If you buy one or more peoples, according to the bee diseases ordinance of 3 November 2004, they must be reported to the responsible local authority immediately after purchase. Then everything is recorded and issued a registration number. If only for private use, it was already. If several peoples are purchased and a commercial honey production take place, it is a little more complex and the responsible veterinary office is also involved. However, you should still - for general peace in the neighborhood - ask if the residents agree with the beekeeping.
We also advise you to get in touch with a local beekeeper association prior to purchase and have yourself trained there. The beekeepers like to pass on their knowledge to newcomers and in many cases also hold regular courses around the topic of beekeepers in the garden.

Calm bees with smoke

The correct handling of bee colonies can be learned from local beekeepers

Material and tools for the hobby beekeeper

After the look behind the scenes and equipped with the necessary expertise, nothing speaks against buying the necessary materials for beekeeping in the garden. You need:

  • One or more beehives
  • Beekeeper protective clothing: hat with net, beekeeping uniform, gloves
  • Beekeeper whistle or smoker
  • Stick chisel for loosening propolis and cutting honeycombs
  • Knife with long blade
  • Bees broom for gently brushing bees from honeycombs
  • Wasserbestäuber
  • Agent for treatment against varroa mites

Further equipment is then necessary for the later harvest. However, as you can see, the cost is relatively low and is in the range of around 200 euros.

Beekeeper with protective clothing

When beekeepers in their own garden appropriate protective clothing is essential

Of course, the most important thing is the bees or the queen, which is the living heart of the swarm. Many beekeepers breed their queens themselves, so you can either buy them at the local beekeepers' club or order them online. A swarm costs about 150 euros.

Safety at the hive

Especially in the early morning it works well on the hive, because the bees are still very sluggish at this time. Before approaching the cane you should put on protective clothing. These include a bright, mostly white beekeeper jacket, a headgear with net - so that the head is completely protected - and gloves. By the way, the white color of the clothes has nothing to do with the bees, but with the sun: in the summer it can get quite warm in full gear and a light clothing reflects the sun instead of putting it on. In the next step, the smoker or beekeeper pipe is prepared. The smoke calms the bees in addition, so that one can work in peace. The difference between a smoker and a beekeeper pipe is in the handling: With the smoker the smoke is driven by a bellows. With the beekeeper's pipe, the smoke - as the name suggests - is driven by its own breathing air. However, the beekeeper's smoke often gets into the airways and eyes, which is why the smoker is becoming increasingly popular among beekeepers.

Honey harvest from our own garden

Depending on the species and weather conditions, the bee colony begins at about ten degrees Celsius to leave the stick and collect nectar and pollen. As a rule of thumb, one can say that the beginning of the collection season is around March.The season ends in October. "Harvested" is the honey twice a year. Once in early summer (June) and for the second time in summer (August). When it is time for harvest in your region, you as a beginner ask best again at old-established beekeepers on site.

Scrape honey

Honey can be harvested twice a year

Harvested are the full honeycombs - but not more than 80 percent. The rest is needed for the people to get through the winter and to have enough workers in the following year. The hardworking bees are active throughout the year and do not hibernate. Instead, they gather in November for a so-called winter grape. Here, the bees - among other things by their wing movements - generate heat, the insects regularly change their position. In order to warm up, the bees sitting outside exchange their place with the inside one. During this time, the beekeeper only has to look once for his bees and check for any diseases and pests such as the Varroa mite. As soon as the temperatures are continuously around eight degrees Celsius again, the bees start with a spring cleaning. They clean themselves as well as the hive. In addition, the first pollen is being collected, which is mainly used to raise the new larvae. By the end of March all bees have entered the so-called winter generation and the spring bees are taking their place. These work around the clock, which is why their life expectancy is only two to six weeks, so it is quite short. At the same time, the intensive work of the beekeeper begins: The honeycomb must be checked every week for new queens. You can see their whereabouts on a much larger and cone-shaped cell. If such cells are discovered, they must be removed to prevent the so-called "swarming". When "swarming" the old queens move away and take half of the flight bees with them - which has less honey for the beekeeper.
In early summer, the beekeeper can harvest for the first time. The honeycombs are broken up after the harvest in a honey extractor by means of flying force. This produces the actual honey and the beeswax that make up the honeycombs. For every bee colony a honey yield of ten or more kilograms - depending on the location of the hive - is not uncommon. After the harvest, the bees receive sugar water (please never feed foreign honey!) As a feed substitute and are treated again against any diseases and pests. When feeding you should always be careful not to leave anything open and to feed only late in the evening. When it smells of sugar water or honey, foreign bees are quickly on the spot, robbing their own stock. From September, the flight hole will be reduced in size: on the one hand, the bees will slowly come to rest, on the other hand, the guardian bees can better defend the flight hole. To protect against other predators, such as mice, a grid will be placed in front of the entrances in October. In this way, the hive is ready for the next winter.

Video Board: Beekeeping for Beginners -- Hive Set Up.

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