Suburban Beekeeping

A Beehive in your Garden!!

 With the worldwide decline in the honeybee population, Southern Africa has become a haven for the sustainability of this marvellous complex social insect.  Honeybees are, in certain areas, responsible for up to 80% of the pollination needs of human crop production and flora growth and development.  If the honeybee population declined in substantial numbers or, worst scenario, ceased to exist, man would have to resort to human intervention to ensure artificial pollination of horticultural products.  Suburban gardens would become reliant on the less effectual pollinators to maintain colour, variety and growth of flowers, shrubs and trees.  And there would be no honey!!

South African suburbia is a utopia for the growth and sustainability of honeybee colonies in our environment. With our abundance of beautiful gardens, wide variety of nectar and pollen producing plants and the suburban forest we have created, with the acres and acres of flowering trees, (some 6 million in Greater Johannesburg alone) honeybee colonies thrive amongst the human habitat.

Unfortunately they can become a nuisance in certain areas, especially when they invade home dwellings, water meter boxes, rockery features and wall cavities.  Apart from the danger of bee attacks when the bees exhaust the available space in their cavity and become overcrowded, or when they become overheated in the summer months and are irritated by smelly and noisy grass cutting in close proximity to their entrance, one of the honeybees natural functions of producing an abundance of honey may often be wasted if it is excessive to their own colony’s needs and is not properly harvested.

Beekeeper Mike Miles has now designed a beehive which can ideally be placed in the right locality in a South African suburban garden and which not only can provide a comfortable home for a colony of bees and enable them to go about their daily business of pollinating the rich sources of urban flora, but also allows for the easy and accessible management of the hive which allows the suburban beekeeper to put his own home-grown honey on his breakfast table.

The Suburban Midi Beehive

Generally the management of honeybee colonies in man-made beehives has been confined to vertical structures using a “Langstroth” type hive, or a horizontal “Top Bar” hive where the movable frames are packed one against the other.  Mike Miles’ adaption of his “Suburban Midi Hive” creates enough space for a colony of honeybees to exist on a seasonal basis using movable brood frames and three “inner covers” so the outer honey-filled frames can be harvested with minimal disturbance to the rest of the colony.

Whilst Mike warns that our African species of honeybees are dangerous and that anyone working with them must know how to manage a colony, if placed in the right location in a garden, away from disturbing animals and children, a properly managed colony of honeybees will not only be an asset to our ecology and the garden, but will also provide a fascinating hobby for any environmentally conscious homeowner.

Note however that there are local government by-laws which have to be complied with, depending in which municipality the suburban beekeeper resides.

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Trapping a colony of bees into a suburban bee hive.  Bees naturally swarm in the spring and summer months and it is easy to establish a colony at this time of year.

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An established suburban top bar hive.  Honey crops, as shown below, are not uncommon following a good honey flow in suburbia.

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This is pure “Multiflora” honeycomb.  The frame weighs over 2 kilogrammes.  It can be cut up and eaten as honeycomb or crushed to extract the liquid honey.

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The “Suburban Midi Beehive” which can comfortably accommodate a colony of Honeybees in a reasonably sized suburban garden.  The frames are movable and allow for proper management of the honeybee colony and honey production for the household table.  The brood frame is a complete honeycomb weighing up to 2 kilogrammes of natural raw honey.  Each Midi Hive can produce up to 20 kilogrammes of honey in a good season.