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Backyard beekeeper gives advice to others in Phoenix

Cricket Aldridge owns multiple colonies, is an active member of the Arizona Backyard Beekeepers Association and even removes feral bee colonies for people in need.

PHOENIX — When Cricket Aldridge began making homemade Mead, she had no idea where that journey would lead.

Aldridge found that the downside to making Mead, a honey-based drink, was how much it cost for the honey that she needed.

The solution was simple

“So, then I thought, why not try beekeeping?" said Aldridge.

Aldridge now owns multiple colonies, is an active member of the Arizona Backyard Beekeepers Association and even removes feral bee colonies for people to support her hobby.

The benefits of beekeeping are not hard to imagine. Personal beekeeping includes free honey, wax and all the delicious recipes that bee byproducts are ingredients of.

Before someone should make the decision to become an at-home beekeeper, there are some challenges that should be researched.

Not all municipalities are bee-friendly.

In her Blog, Garden Variety Bees, Aldridge has researched all that she could on the rules of the cities and towns in the greater Phoenix area. 

The main issue she has come across is that they are all different.

Education is key

To become a backyard beekeeper, the Arizona Backyard Beekeepers Association suggested taking a class that is meant to educate newbie keepers on how to start and maintain a colony. 

Colonies require a weekly check to make sure that it is healthy because an unhealthy hive can lead to potential dangers. 

Knowing dangers to look out for 

One major issue for beekeepers is the chance of their colony being infiltrated by Africanized Bees.

“They will send off little colonies called Usurpation Swarms and that's a little tiny colony that has a queen in it, and a few 100 bees,” explained Aldridge. “What they do is, sit on the side of your hive and you think that it's just your own bees, but it's not.”

The small group of bees from the Usurpation Swarm will enter the colony, blend in with the other bees, then kill the queen. The Africanized Queen is then escorted into the colony and takes over. 

Before long, the mild-mannered European colony is now a very defensive Africanized colony that is near impossible to extract honey from.

Another danger to bee colonies is a mite called the Varroa Mite.

“They infest every colony and we just have to be up on it,” said Aldridge. “So, another maintenance thing we have to do is constantly keep track of the mite count in our colonies because it can completely decimate your colony without even realizing it.”

Benefits outweigh risks

Despite the challenges, Beekeeping has become a passion for Aldridge, who said the rewards outweigh the risks.

“It's such a rewarding experience,” said Aldridge. “You get honey, you get propolis, you get bee’s wax.”

For Aldridge, it’s her way of connecting with nature.

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