To Bee or Not To Bee...Deciding whether to raise a bee colony

Over the last few days, I have spent way too much time thinking about bees. In my ideal world, I'd own a small orchard - loaded with berries, stone fruit, grapes, chickens, and.....bees. I'd sell organic berries and raw organic honey. It would be awesome.

But why wait for "someday?" I've already started making my suburban lot a little more orchard-like. I grow as many berries as my lot will sustain, and am researching which stone fruits can actually survive zone 4 weather.

But I've decided against chickens in the suburbs because I would want them to be free-range. Truly free-range, not the crappy "cage-free" which means fenced in and crowded but "uncaged." I'd want my chickens to wonder the orchard eating bugs and picking weeds - occasionally nabbing a downed berry and would only coop them in at night.

I'd also want them safe from my fellow neighbors - raccoon, badgers, wolves, foxes, coyotes, weasels, bobcats, hawks, eagles, owls, and dogs. Phew! They'd all be after the poor birds. Imagine being a chicken living with all that stress. So I'm fine living without chickens...for now.

But then there are bees. I've always liked bees. I like them for their hardworking, garden helping usefulness. Plus, they've never bothered me. I've picked up many bees in my life. I've been stung a few times, but it's no
big deal.  For the most part, we coexist well together.

I'd be the perfect person to raise them. I'm calm with bees. I've never freaked in the case of a swarm or huge infestation.

I'd raise them organically and tend to them diligently. I'd gladly share the raw honey goodness and I'd love to see them at work in the garden.

I'd also love to know so much about them, watch them multiply, increase the hives, make honey....

But bees raise some of the same concern as chickens. Where to put them, how to keep racoons, ants, bears, and people out of the hives, how to keep them alive during winter, what to do with the extra hives and extra honey!

After a lot of research and a lot of calculating, I don't think our lot is right for bees. The open space where I could adequately protect them from wind and frost, leaves them very susceptible to humans and animals. Plus, I only have room for one or two hives.

And just like berries or perennials, they will need dividing after time. And I'll want them to grow. Not possible in a small suburban lot. But....there was a glimmer of hope. My nonagenarian neighbors expressed that they'd always wanted to raise bees.

Really! They live right next door. Maybe we could do it together? If they bring it up again and are serious, maybe we can keep the bees on their acreage. I'd be willing to do most of the work, but we'd have to work out the details. Because let's be honest. At some point, people in their 90's start to go downhill.

If I had enough money, I'd buy their lot and make it an orchard. A sweet orchard - loaded with berries, apples, pears, cherries, plums, grapes, chickens, and bees. If you happen to be a generous benefactor and would love to see a young (okay not so young) girl's dream of owning an orchard in the suburbs come true, feel free to contact me.

Their lot is already scheduled to be sold to a developer once they meet their demise. And guess what would become of my orchard to be. It would become a parking lot. The shame....

So we'll either be going ahead with our neighbors to team-raise bees or I'll be slowly work on making our garden more bee friendly - sans hive. My daughter will gladly help plant more (and more and more) flowers.


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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!


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