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Your guide to beekeeping in Indianapolis

What’s even sweeter than honey? Producing your own. Here’s everything you need to know about beekeeping in the Circle City.

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Bees are crucial to Public Green’s microfarm in Broad Ripple, pollinating all of the produce, herbs, and edible flowers used for the restaurant.

Video by @publicgreens

April showers bring May flowers — and with them, bees. Between pollinating a third of the food we eat and 80% of the world’s flowering plants, bees are vital to our agriculture and way of life as we know it.

Thanks to its relatively low investment + maintenance requirements, environmental benefits, and potential for honey production, beekeeping is becoming an increasingly popular hobby. Here’s everything you need to know about starting your own colony in Indianapolis.

What are the rules around beekeeping in Indy?

Indianapolis permits beekeepers to have up to eight hives on a single property. Areas with HOAs may or may not have restrictions, although a proposed law aims to focus on regulation over prohibition.

The Central Indiana Beekeepers Association recommends that new beekeepers begin with two colonies/hives. Why? It’s helpful for new beekeepers to be able to compare and contrast two hives in order to help them thrive. Plus, a strong hive may bolster a nearby weak one.

What are the pros and cons of beekeeping?

Unless you’re really going all in with dozens of hives, you should think of beekeeping as a fun, educational hobby, not a lucrative business opportunity. You’ll probably only produce enough honey for your household and the occasional gift to a loved one.

The good news is that the time commitment needed for maintaining a couple of healthy hives is pretty minimal. You may spend only one or two hours per week working with your hives from early spring through fall, and almost no time with your hives in winter. Keep in mind that bees do not always survive winter, so you may need to start over with a new colony in the spring.

If you’re like us, the benefits of beekeeping might be overshadowed by the memory of a very traumatic scene from “My Girl” you saw when you were entirely too young (or other killer bee narratives in the media). But don’t let those fears deter you. Honey bees are naturally gentle and only sting when they are threatened — beekeepers are stung occasionally, but wearing proper clothing and taking other protective measures can minimize these occurrences.

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Gardens and nature preserves like those at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site rely on honeybees to pollinate their flowers.

How do I get started?

First up, you’re going to need a handful of supplies — and of course, your bees. Here’s a shortlist of the basics + price estimates:

  • Protective equipment: $150+
  • Hives: $250+ per hive
  • Treatments and feeding, as needed: $100-$150 per year
  • Colony of bees: $120-$200

There are two main types of hives that beekeepers utilize: Langstroth-style hives and Top Bar Hives. One style may appeal to you more than the other; check out this list of pros and cons of each. Most hives can last years, but all will require regular maintenance to keep them strong and stable.

Selecting the right location for your hives is important for their success. Early exposure to morning sun (i.e. facing south or southeast) helps bees begin foraging early in the day, while extreme shade should be avoided. The bees will need access to a water source within half a mile of their hive, as well as a structure that can act as a wind break during winter. Of course, the location should also be easily accessible to you, with plenty of space to move around the hives and bring wheelbarrows in and out (honey is very heavy).

Have other questions? The Central Indiana Beekeepers Association maintains a huge database of articles to help you on your beekeeping journey. You can also join a local club for advice from fellow beekeepers.

Have other tips or tricks to beekeeping that we missed? Please give us a buzz.

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