Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

Bee Your Own Keeper

Jun 23, 2020 01:12PM ● By Patrick McGee
Honeycombs with honey

The Bohemian Cemetery at 52nd and Center streets in Omaha seems like an unlikely place for local beekeepers to congregate and discuss bees, but that’s where Omaha Bee Club officers Lynn Danzer and Bob Loghry met up with club members earlier this year to distribute annual bee shipments.

Danzer and Loghry loaded wooden packages containing roughly four pounds of bees each (including one queen apiece) into pickup trucks for delivery. Of those members picking up bees, a vast majority live in Omaha, Danzer said.

Still, people from places other than Omaha arrived for their shipments. One club member, Tom Dugan of Greeley, Nebraska, said he gets a few bees every year to keep as a hobby. Another club member, Tucker Cain, 17, of Council Bluffs, has been keeping bees with his father for a year. 

To many people’s surprise, beehives are allowed in residential areas in Omaha; however, many local jurisdictions have space requirements and limits on the number of hives one can host. But be advised, not all nearby communities agree. Papillion and La Vista do not allow hives, while in Elkhorn, neighborhood covenants dictate whether hives are allowed. Danzer suggested checking local ordinances before installing hives on your property.

Some club members keep their hives at the Bohemian Cemetery because they can’t house them on their personal property. Danzer keeps many of his own hives there as well. 

Those interested in beekeeping need to apply for a permit through the Douglas County Health Department and pay a $10 fee, Loghry said. The department may also require a property inspection when deciding whether to grant a permit.

Loghry said getting started in beekeeping is an easy process: “Get the boxes first, then get [the hive] all set up, then get the bees.” Added Danzer: “Then, let them do their thing.” 

Loghry said a hive will become self-sufficient in time, but that transplant bees should be fed sugar water until they build out combs and the queen begins laying eggs. Well-fed bees can build out enough comb to fill a hive in about a week, he said.

A prolific queen bee lays 2,000 eggs a day, Danzer said, so a healthy colony will require two boxes after just a few weeks. “It doesn’t take long for it to grow.” 

While there are many varieties of bees, some are better suited to Nebraska than others. Carniolan bees and Russian bees do especially well in Nebraska’s climate due to their colony’s wintertime behaviors. 

Loghry said insecticides and pesticides, such as those commonly found in lawn chemicals, can be deadly for city bees.

The same chemical poisoning risks exist in rural areas due to treated crops. Bees are also susceptible to parasitic mites unless treated, he said. Several natural methods can be used to safely control bee mites, including dusting them with powdered sugar (yes, sugar!).

While healthy hives will produce plentiful honey, it’s best not to be greedy, Loghry said. “The first year you won’t get that much honey off of it. You’ll want to reserve it for the bees.” He recommends leaving 65 to 80 pounds of honey in the hive, so that the bees have adequate nutrition over the winter. 

For those wanting to learn more, Danzer and Loghry lead hands-on classes for aspiring beekeepers at the Bohemian Cemetery on the first and third Saturdays throughout the summer months. Veils and equipment are provided. Danzer encourages folks to stop over if they’re interested—he’s happ-bee to teach.

Visit Omaha Bee Club’s Facebook page or omahabeeclub.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.