On Saturday, October 12th, BeeSpeak St. Louis hosted Kim Flottum of Bee Culture.. He gave three separate presentations:
- Urban Beekeeping
- Honey Bee Nutrition
- Healthy Hives Naturally
I truly enjoyed not only the content but also Kim’s speaking style. He’s not an overly polished speaker but has more of a down-home, approachable-regular-guy style. He is friendly, knowledgeable, and witty — and that all shone through in his speaking. What follows are are my notes from his presentations.
Insurance: Get it. Many insurance companies will not cover bees whatsoever. If yours doesn’t, contact Howalt-McDowell in South Dakota. You need insurance not only for possible stings and related chaos but, also, when you sell a quart of honey to the lady down the road. If she trips in your driveway coming to get it, insurance will classify it as bee-related & commercial, and you are out of luck if you don’t have bee coverage.
Be Legal: Know what laws/city ordinances apply and comply.
Rules: Follow the rules, don’t give beekeepers a bad reputation.
Be Prepared: Keep an epi-pen on hand at all times. Be ready to remove swarms.
Be Good Neighbors: If your neighbor is badly allergic to bees or even just terribly fearful of them, don’t keep them in your yard. Orient the hives’ flightpaths so as not to bother your neighbors, including watching the “poop zone”. (If the flight path takes the bees along the side of their house, it will soon be stained yellow with bee droppings.)
Emergencies: Again, have an epi-pen on hand at all times. Be ready to handle anything bee-related that can happen and needs handled immediately.
Extremes: (My notes are blank on this one. Doh.) I think this is where he touched on rooftop hives, excessive winds channeled by tall city buildings, heat build up, etc. Keep these things in mind when deciding where to place your hives.
Upstairs: Rooftop & balcony beekeeping. Think things through before placing hives. If you have to pull your hive piece by piece through roof access or hoist it into place with a pulley or crane, you might wish to think about how you will harvest the honey without making a mess of it.
Well Fed: Keep your bees fed well and fresh water available at all times. If not, the bees will find your neighbors’ pet food & water dishes.
Working the Bees: Use common sense. Don’t work the bees if your neighbors are throwing a BBQ in their adjoining backyard.
Problems: Most already mentioned above.
Removals: Even if you don’t love removing bees, whether they’re swarms or cut-outs, try to do them if at all possible. It gives beekeepers a good reputation for helping. If you don’t, people get further stressed by bees and are less likely to support beekeeping in cities.
Benefits of City Beekeeping
Pollination is an obvious one.
Increased biodiversity — every little bit helps.
Education of the public on bees, beekeeping, honey, and environmental issues. Make allies out of your local school system and forestry departments. If you get those two involved, curious, and educated, that will spill over into many other areas of your community. Kim Flottum’s local beekeeping group has an observation hive in their local library. (I LOVE that idea!) A fella named Dan O’Hanlon in West Virgina has a bee cam app — he has a camera trained on an observation hive. The app lets people zoom and look around the observation hive. There are a lot of creative ways to get your community involved in bees.
Concerns of City Beekeeping
Stings and Allergies. This is an obvious one.
Flight paths. Not only do you want to avoid having the flight path cross a sidewalk and similar areas, not direct it into your neighbor’s back yard, and so on, you also need to be aware of the less-obvious issues, such as fecal staining. Bee feces will permanently stain vinyl siding and paint on both houses and cars.
Water. Bees need water and, if you don’t supply clean, fresh water near your hives, they will find your neighbor’s pools and pet water dishes. Swimming pools are especially attractive to bees. The massive amount of chlorine vapors rise above the pool, making like a neon sign that attracts bees. In order to “train” bees to the water you have placed in a safe place, add salt, essential oils, and/or Honey Bee Healthy or similar to the water. The scents waft above the water, “calling” in the bees. Side note: Bees need 1/2 to 1 gallon of water per hive per day in the warm months.
Invest in robing screens. They’re cheap and will save a lot of heartache in not only dead bees but annoyed neighbors. If you have a robbing episode, there is a lot of alarm pheromone released. If the breeze picks that up and carries it down the block, angry bees will follow it, attacking warm bodies in their path.
One final tidbit: There were 75-80 beekeepers at the presentation. Statistically, two of those will become allergic to bee venom.
That’s it for my notes on the Urban Beekeeping presentation. I’ll admit I didn’t pay as much attention to this portion as I could have, living in the boonies myself. I’m sure I missed a lot in my notes. Next up: Honeybee Nutrition.