If your garden is surrounded by hedges that are tall enough, you can set up a couple hives. They will provide you with organic honey and will increase the pollination of your fruits and vegetables.
Before getting started, check with your local town hall for local zoning issues.
Usually, hives must be placed with a setback of several dozens of feet from public walkways, and several hundred feet from public buildings like schools, hospitals, etc. There should be a setback from the limits of your property and the neighboring houses. If these requirements which are often specific to each locality are met, hives can even be set up in an urban setting. Of course, best is to have a sliver of forest, prairie or a large orchard treated only with organic products. For any given flower-rich area, there shouldn’t be more than 30 hives to a square mile (about 2 km²).
An easy hive to build
Most hives sold on the market are square. In nature, wild bees tend to cluster in cylindrical shapes; consequently, best is to provide them with a rounded shape. Get your hands on a mold to make smaller cylindrical shaped hives with hewn straw and plaster (inside diameter: 14 inches (36 cm), height: 7 inches (18 cm), wall thickness: 1 inch (3 cm), average weight: 12 lbs (5 kg).
In every tiny hive, the bees will build 8 rays on wooden rods lodged in notches. As the honey is produced and stored by the bee colony, you can stack them (3 to 8 per hive maximum).
It is also possible to replace the plaster with lime or clay (must be protected from rain), and straw can be replaced by cattail stems, nettles, sunflower stems or even conifer wood sawdust (untreated).
Advantages of having a hive in the garden
This ecofriendly hive design endeavors to be more respectful of the bees than conventional beekeeping methods. Bees living in these hives have less trouble regulating temperature and moisture and don’t fall sick as often. Since they’re less stressed, they don’t tend to swarm. The hive isn’t disturbed as often for hive maintenance (raising, smoking, treating against varroa mites, etc), bees stay calmer and won’t sting as often. Lastly, you won’t need to spin the centrifugal extractor to collect the honey –this won’t change its quality in the least. Average harvest per hive: 24 lbs (10 kg).
Pierrick Le Louarn