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Save the bees: Be a beekeeper

backyard gardens benefit significantly from a nearby bee colony.

Yes, you can keep bees in West Michigan, and yes, that's a good thing. A managed colony of bees can help pollinate plants for two miles and help make backyard gardens more beautiful. 

There are some challenges that go with beekeeping in the city vs. in the country. There are local ordinances and rules you have to follow. In Grand Rapids, a bee colony must be 100 feet from the property line and 150 feet from a dwelling. Jason Osbourn is a beekeeper and part of the Grand Rapids Area Beekeepers. He says rooftop bees are a great way to keep bees from bothering people while also gaining the benefits. 

But what do you know about bees? Osbourn has some tips for how to make things easier for yourself and any bees you want to keep, or if you just want to help save the bee population. 

Don't spray a swarm of bees. They are common in May and early June. The swarm is not aggressive, and the bees involved are not inclined to sting. In fact, some may not be able to. If you leave a bee swarm alone, it isn't dangerous. 

Plant pollination sources. Trees are better than flowers when it comes to being a pollination source. A medium sized tree will produce as much nectar as an acre of clover. 

Buy your honey locally. It may be a bit more expensive, but that's because it doesn't have any additives. Honey doesn't go bad, so keep it as long as you need it. Even if it crystallizes, all you need to do is soak it in hot water and the honey will reliquify. 

If you want to learn more about bee keeping, you can attend a meeting of the Grand Rapids Area Beekeepers. Their next meeting is August 14 at Schuler Books on 28th Street. It starts at 6:30 p.m. 

You can also check out Aberdeen Apiary New City Crop Share pick-up at 4th Reformed Church on July 25.  The address is 1226 Union Ave NE. You will be able to see the hives and buy honey and wax products. 

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