Biofuel Oasis

BEES: A gift for your yard and your neighborhood

Keeping a beehive in your backyard is a sweet gift to the bees and to local gardeners. Unlike commercial bees, which get moved around the country and fed sugar water, bees in a backyard hive get to live in one place and forage a nutritious diet from a diverse array of local plants and trees. Honeybees do 80{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} of the pollination performed by insects, helping fruit trees and gardens in a one- to two-mile radius of the hive produce more fruits and vegetables.

If you already have a beehive, here’s what you’ll be doing during the winter months: From November through January, keep your hive closed up. Don’t inspect, but monitor the hive daily for ant trails up the side. Use vegetable oil moats, adhesive traps, or diatomaceous earth to keep ants at bay. Spend these months cleaning your equipment or building new bee housing. If your hive looks strong, add a box on top during the first week of February to discourage swarming (an exodus of the queen and thousands of bees) in March.

Just starting out? April is the time to get bees and settle them into the hive, but you’ll need to reserve your bees in December or January. Spend the winter months looking for a spot in your yard that gets an hour or more of sun daily. The hive colony keeps its brood nest at 95° and will be much happier in a sunny place than a dark corner. In winter, read books and take classes on bees. Keeping bees healthy and alive for multiple years requires deep learning and regular inspections from February to October. Make a strong commitment to beekeeping as a gift to yourself, your garden, and your neighbors!

—Jennifer Radtke, cofounder of Biofuel Oasis

Bee reservations are available at Biofuel Oasis beginning December 1, and a basic beekeeping class is offered in January and February. Visit and look under “Urban Farm Store” for resources on bees, including workshops and information on how to order bees and supplies.