Beehives are the new backyard chickens

Jul 21, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. ET

Having a backyard chicken coop is so 2010! Bees are the new hot trend in eco-living at home and for good reason -- the bee population has gone down more than 30 percent in the past few years. Here are some details about owning a beehive in your backyard, how to get started and why it might be for you (30 pounds of honey, anyone?)

Woman beekeeper

Green living is on the rise all across the country -- even in the most urban of cities, people are trying to get back to the basics of living including growing their own fruits and vegetables, making bread at home and even raising animals that help produce food, such as chickens. Beekeeping at home, for hobby and for function, is the latest trend in this new green world. Let's break down urban beekeeping to get you started.

Bee facts

Honeybees, which are the type that you'll be raising, are not aggressive unless provoked or are trying to protect their hive. In general, it's quite safe to keep bees -- unless you have an allergy, of course!

Agriculture is dependent upon the hard work of bees -- without them, crops and flowers all across the country would suffer.

Bees secrete beeswax to seal up the gaps in their hive -- we use it for all sorts of things in daily life, such as furniture polish and cosmetics.

A beehive produces on average of 20 to 30 pounds of honey each season -- although, in the right conditions, it can produce up to 60 pounds.

Bee informed

Beekeeping kit

Beehives are fairly low-maintenance -- during spring and summer, the tending takes about 30 minutes per week while harvesting the honey twice a year will take about two hours per hive. If you live in the city, creating an environment for the bees is most important -- John's Beekeeping Notebook is a fabulous site for smart little tidbits about making bees feel at home and a great place to get started.

Before you get started with beekeeping at your home, check on your state's beekeeping requirements -- like any pets, some states required that you have a beekeeping license (which is as simple as paying a small annual fee), whereas others are very stringent about how many hives you can have and where. If your state or city has mandates on beekeeping in residential areas, but your heart is set on bees, try asking a local farm if you can keep you hives there -- some free honey might sweeten the deal!

Urban beekeeper

Bee supplies

We bet you haven't thought much about how the actual bees will get to your hive, right? Boxes of bees are shipped to you overnight in huge mesh cages -- to get started, you'll need about three pounds of bees, which ends up being around 10,000 of them buzzing around. In addition, you'll need a beekeeping kit -- there are great comprehensive kits available online that include everything you'll need to get started. This Beginners Kit from Dadant, a beekeeping supply mecca, will cost you about $150. The bees will run approximately another $100.

Bee resources

When you get your hive going, more than anything you're going to need some bee friends for support. Most communities have bee support groups where you can meet up with other beekeepers to talk all thing bee. Online, you can read more about the details of beekeeping, as well as bee troubleshooting and step-by-step guides. There's even a specific book on keeping bees in the city -- check out Urban Beekeeping by Craig Hughes.

Tell us:

Would you consider taking up beekeeping?

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