“Home sweet home” may have a new meaning in Austin, Texas, with backyard beekeeping on the rise. What’s the buzz about? To learn more about the trend, we spoke with president and co-founder of TreeHouse Jason Ballard. He believes the rising trend of beekeeping “follows a broader trend of people wanting to reconnect to the ‘sources’ and ‘basics’ of life in an ever more digitized, urbanized, and disembodied world.”
In other words, it’s not just about beeswax and honey.
Ballard’s eco-friendly home improvement store, TreeHouse, made itself at home in South Austin in October of 2011, recognizing a growing demand for sustainable and healthy-living products. This year, it began selling basic beekeeping equipment like top-bar hives, box hives, smokers, gloves, hats, and veils: everything an amateur beekeeper needs to start a small backyard operation.
“There is also a rising awareness of how much our food plants and native ecosystems depend on pollinators like bees,” explained Ballard, who studied biology at Texas A&M University with an emphasis in ecology. “People want to be a part of the health and flourishing of the world and their local communities.”
We asked Ballard what people should consider before they jump headfirst into beekeeping. First, he said, be a good neighbor. “Make sure your neighbors know what you are up to and perhaps also educate them about the benefits to the whole area.”
Second, understand the commitment aspect. Looking after a hive isn’t always the bee’s knees. “Beekeeping can be very simple, but it is a 365 day a year commitment. Once a colony establishes itself, they are there. They won’t migrate away in the winter. You have to take care of them.”
Lastly, Ballard recommends educating yourself. “Bees are easier to keep than people probably realize, but it does take a level of skill, attention, and affection because they are living creatures. Familiarize yourself with the basics of beekeeping before starting, rather than trying to learn as you go.”
TreeHouse has a series of classes planned for the spring put on by local beekeepers and hive builders. Joining a group can be helpful as well. Ballard recommended meeting up with the Urban Beekeeping group, taking a class at the Round Rock Honey Beekeeping Academy, or joining the Texas Beekeepers Association. “We also offer a great selection of DVDs and books for folks who want to start learning now,” added Ballard.
Sweet! Best of luck, buzz-lovers.
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