Years ago, living on my North Carolina homestead, I enjoyed all that our six acres provided. My days were full of pleasing experiences: nibbling dew-drenched sweet peas, gathering warm eggs, hearing goat milk splash into a bucket and looking at the honey-glistened grin on my tiny daughter’s face as we harvested honey.
Tending a hive is a very satisfying chore. Watching the bees’ ebb and flow from their hive is an exhilarating look into one of nature’s true blessings. Currently, there is a growing trend to working beehives here in New Orleans and throughout the country. To some it’s a hobby with delicious honey as an end result to others it is so much more.
“Bees are so important because many of our crops are dependent on bees to pollinate them,” says Darci Jones, who owns two local hives. “Also, although the cause varies from area to area, bees are on the decline. There are fewer bees and less beekeepers than ever, and without a coordinated effort bees will end up on the endangered species list.”
The decline is believed to come from Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear. According to Russell Harris, whose last workshop on beekeeping at New Orleans City Park was full to capacity, believes the causes of CCD aren’t completely understood.
“There are still conflicting theories about why the number of bees are dwindling but we do know that having more people, such as urban beekeepers, is helping build back the bee population,” he says.
Jones thinks beekeeping is so important that she has started a beekeepers club that had its first meeting in October and now meets the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church’s Chalstrom Parish House on 1031 S. Carrollton Ave. Her interest in bees began with her own garden.
“My garden the first year was wonderful, and the next year it did not do as well,” she says. “After talking to my neighbors, I found out that someone leasing the house down the street had kept bees the first year, and had moved the second.”
New Orleans does allow people to have two hives on private property, some cities have restrictions but that is slowly changing as the trend of urban gardening grows. In New Orleans there are only a few requirements.
“The hives must have a water source so they don’t go in the neighbors’ swimming pools, they need to be surrounded by a solid barrier to force their flight pattern up and out and the hives must be registered with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry,” he says.
He suggests starting with one hive in March or April. The supply cost he estimates at $300 and they can easily be found online. He also says the best times to work the hives are in the morning and early evening when the bees are busy.
“I inspect my hives every two weeks during the busy season,” Jones says. “Building and painting the hives takes time and processing honey and beeswax takes time, but it is well worth it. I got more than 30 pounds of honey from my first harvest.”
The only other thing to consider is the sting. If you or anyone in your family is allergic to bees this is not the hobby for you.
“Reactions to bee stings vary,” says Jones. “Personally, they do not bother me, but other people have problems with swelling at the sting site. Very few people have adverse reactions and stinging doesn’t happen very often. It’s such a great hobby. I love beekeeping with my son and grandson. It is nice to have something unique to share.”
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
Office of Horticulture and Quarantine Program
Allen Farbe, 225-952-8100
Dadant and Sons, Inc.
Mann Lake Ltd.
Walter T. Kelley Bee Co.