Why in the world would you want to keep honey bees in Anchorage, Alaska?

Old hive details – this will be added back to my boxes

Honey bees in Anchorage, Alaska? Why yes, that’s my plan for summer 2022! So when a friend gives you seven Langstroth bee boxes that have been in storage for over ten years, what would you do? If you’re like me, you accept them, clean them up, repair and repaint them, and start researching, reading and watching everything honey bees.

When thinking about beekeeping, some might ask why? In fact, every person I’ve told about the boxes and the bees asks why? Some recoil at the thought. Some roll their eyes at me. Some are scared, and some downright hate bees (and honey!). I have learned that it can be a very confusing topic to those that know nothing about bees.

I keep a greenhouse every year, along with five raised beds, and loads of perennials in my yard. My yard has over 75 birch trees, six lilacs, six honeyberry (Haskap) bushes, and three Evans cherry trees. With all the plants that need pollinating, why not keep my own hives? Bees are expert pollinators and being able to keep them in my yard gives me hopes that I will have better fruit and vegetable yields this summer.

Old wax has my whole garage smelling lovely

I want the bees to thrive and in order to do that, I needed to educate myself as much as possible before beekeeping season. So, after getting the boxes in mid-January 2022, I became completely obsessed with beekeeping and all things bees–I started quickly educating myself by doing the following:

  • Finding a good Cooperative Extension pamphlet on beekeeping.
  • Searched and read Alaska-specific blogs about beekeeping
  • Read books about Alaskan / cold-weather beekeeping
  • Read love stories about beekeeping
  • Listened to books about beekeeping while driving
  • Watched hours of YouTube and TikTok videos – and discovered there are more than one type of box!

Ready to repaint

Yes, yes, it is. However, there are rules and regulations at both the State and Municipality level. 

Since I knew nothing about honey bees, the first thing I did was pull the Alaska State Statutes:

Because the State statutes and regulations are so long, I have linked both below. 

Alaska Statutes: 03.47.030.

State of Alaska Regulations: 11 AAC 35.010.

I then found the Muni of Anchorage ordinances surrounding beekeeping within city limits so I would not get myself into trouble. The Muni of Anchorage Ordinance about bee keeping is cut and pasted from Title 21

Yay! I can keep bees – now what kind should I get?

It’s January, and all the websites in Alaska said I needed to order bees ASAP, because they sell out quickly and I would have been left with empty boxes. I ordered bees from Royal Alaskan Honey because the site was the most user friendly and had the most informative Alaskan-bee-specific information. 

Ordering bees takes a lot of thought, too — who do you pick to order your bees from? Which type of bees do you choose? I researched bees and decided to go with Carniolans because I learned that they are gentle, cold tolerant and will leave the hives on cold, rainy days, unlike other bees. These three qualities are important to me as a new beekeeper, especially the gentleness. The cold tolerance will be important here in Anchorage, too, as spring and fall can be harsh. Also, summers can be cool and rainy in south central Alaska, almost as bad as Seattle in terms of raining, so I believe the Carniolans will thrive and produce more than other types of honey bees. 

Be prepared: I was a bit sticker-shocked when ordering bees, as my total was $780 for three queens and two four-pound packages. Why three queens and two packages you might ask? Because, in total, I have three hives. I was given the Langstroth hives, but along the last few weeks of my bee education, I’ve learned about top bar hives and decided I want to try this way of beekeeping instead (easier on the back). I now have construction plans for a top bar hive that I will build before the end of April.

How do I become a beekeeper?

Repaired and repainted Langstroth boxes, ready for tops and bottoms, then bees

I found a beekeeping (bulletin 1045), from Georgia Cooperative Extension, which is written by a professor of entomology, to be very informative and easy to understand, although obviously, Georgia is nothing like Alaska when it comes to cold weather beekeeping.  

Next up: understanding the different bee boxes and the different hive styles, and finding classes here in south central Alaska.

About Jamie Lang

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