Our intentions are to start a beehive this summer. We have the space and given the planting plans we have for the property, it should be a win-win for us and the bees. We are able to provide them with lots of nectar and pollen, and this pollination is important for some of our flowering crops ... and there is the honey!
If possible, we decided to try and catch our own bees. There are lots of reasons to do this, including the belief that using local, "wild" bees is good for encouraging healthy, disease resistant strains. It is also just fun. Well, in theory it's fun.
As bee hives become active in the spring and their home hives become overcrowded, they eventually "swarm". A large group, along with the queen, take off from the hive to find and build a new home. There are a couple ways to catch one of these swarms, including waiting to find one and literally catch it. There are plenty of local resources that spread words of swarms when they happen. Most homeowners are pretty unhappy to find a living mound of bees hanging from a branch in their backyard and are happy to have someone come and take it away.
Alternatively, you can try and create an ideal home for them to move into from the start. That is the approach we are going to try first, although we have put our name on a list for swarms (so let us know if you see one).
The swarm trap is pretty easy in concept. It is a box, about 30L in volume with a 15cm2 opening hung a couple metres off the ground. The swarm finds this an ideal environment and moves in. Here is our trap, made from scrap plywood in the shop.
I decided to build the trap to hold some top bars with the hope that the bees will attach their comb to the bars that I can move directly into my (now under construction) hive. We are going to build a couple different types of top bar hives. Therefore we are using foundation-less top bars that I will be able to move right into my first hive which will be a Kenyan top bar hive.
We hung the trap at the back of the property, facing south and overlooking a pond. We placed some beeswax and lemongrass oil in the trap to help attract the bees. Should be a good location, although we hung it in an freezing ice storm so it might be a few weeks before the bees decide to actually head out.
We will keep you posted what moves in! We are personally hoping for bees.