Questions regarding local bee predators and required time investment

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Seb, Dec 7, 2017.

  1. Seb

    Seb New Member

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    I live in the southeastern United States, and have been considering attempting beekeeping for a while. I have a few questions regarding the risks to any bees that I might try to... uh... keep.

    I am aware that hornets can be a threat to bees, and as European hornets have moved into the area in the last few years, I'm concerned that they might prove an obstacle if I want to keep bees. How likely are these hornets to attack a bee colony and is there anything that can be done to defend a bee colony from hornets?

    I'd also like know to about pests and parasites. I'm aware of wax moths, and I think two types of mites? Or maybe one type of mite and a virus/disease? How likely are pests like this to cause problems with my prospective colony/ies, and how much time+effort+cost should I expect to put in if I want to keep my colony/ies clean and healthy?

    I also just read that skunks, raccoons, and mice can be a problem. Skunks will eat bees, I'm not sure if raccoons are after the bees or the honey, and mice will try to nest in the hive/box.

    I've only occasionally seen skunks or raccoons, but they are around. I've seen opossums, armadillos, and foxes a lot more often, though. We have mice. We must have mice, because they get into the house sometimes; and they have to have come from somewhere. We also have a lot of squirrels. If mice will try to nest in the box, would squirrels try to do the same?

    Where I live, there's mostly smallish cowfields and some woods, with houses interspersed between. There aren't a whole lot of wildflowers but I could plant some. There's at least one nearby field that's usually planted with something; generally soybeans, wheat, or cotton. I've never seen it sprayed with pesticides; but I can't state for certain that it isn't.

    I'd like to spend on average no more than 30 minutes, 3 times a week, tending to bees, after they're established and excluding any time spent harvesting honey (but including any time spent preventing or fending off pests and other threats). So a total of an hour and a half per week. Is that a reasonable amount of time to expect to spend in order to keep bees and keep them healthy; or should I consider other hobbies?

    If I do start beekeeping, it probably won't be until the spring of 2019, as I've got other priorities until mid to late 2018, and I read that it's best to start a colony in the spring.

    btw, I know this is a lot to ask in one question. Sorry in advance.
     
  2. Paul Cottier

    Paul Cottier New Member

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    That is a mouthful. Most if not all of this can be researched with online and offline (books) sources. There many, many threats to honey bees and the type of threats depends greatly where you live. Just about anything carnivorous will eat bees and how much you want to deter these threats will determine how long you spend doing it. I want to protect my investment so i will spend a lot of time and money create whatever i need to do that. Wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, etc will try to get to them and the brood especially during dearth. To help with this you might want to browse the Pests and Diseases forum to get some ideas.
    There are two main types of mites that infest a bee colony: tracheal mites which are easy to treat for and varroa destructor. There is an abundance of info on both of these on youtube from different universities and online articles. Varroa destructor being the single largest threat to colonies today. The time and money it takes to keep your colonies healthy will depend what methods you use and how many colonies you have. Some only use medicated strips others use multiple methods. Wax moths usually infest a colony that is weak and there is too much comb for the bees to maintain.
    Dont want mice in your hives? Use a metal entrance reducer/mouse gaurd. You want to spend no more than 30 minutes 3 times a week tending to hives? Typically you dont want to bee in the hives too often, it will stress them out too much. You only want to bee in your hives when its necessary during inspections or necessary hive maintenance. Once every 10 days is typical. The time you spend tending your bees will depend how much maintenance is required and how many hives you have (see the pattern?) so use your judgement.
    I love beeing a beekeeper. All the money spent and time spent even if it isnt matched in full with honey sales is still worth it. I hope you find it is as well.
     
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  3. Seb

    Seb New Member

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    I appreciate your candor, and apologize for the late reply. I've been busy and forgot that I posted this. Once every 10 days seems fine. At most I'd probably keep 2 colonies, maybe 3. I'll start with 1 and see how much work and honey is involved. I don't intend to sell honey, for the most part, but between myself and relatives/friends, I can probably find a use for any honey I get. I'm also interested in making mead.

    Aside from beekeeping, I also have a strong interest in homebrewing and wine making... and distilling too if it weren't arbitrarily illegal. I'll be getting some wine making gear soon enough. I need to plant some fruit trees this year, and maybe get some grape vines, blueberry bushes, etc.

    If you don't mind answering another question, what should I do with swarms when I don't need more bees? I live in a rural enough location that I could probably just let them go, but there's still the chance that they could end up in someone's house or barn. Bee boxes are kind of expensive so I'm not sure if I'll have extra ones just lying around, either.

    Would it be smart to have a few spares around to catch swarms, and sell any swarms for enough to replace the boxes? And are swarms a guaranteed eventuality from a healthy hive? If so, how often should I expect a healthy colony to produce a swarm? And are there circumstances in which I should prevent or mitigate swarm formation? (I've heard that a swarm splits the colony).
     
  4. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It would take an encyclopedia to catch all of these questions at once.

    Swarm prevention: don't overfeed the bees. If you feed gallons of syrup you don't get honey but they do outgrow boxes faster. I do feed. But I don't push feed anymore. The fewer hives I have, in my low forage area, the more honey I actually get. The bees still have the same forage whether I have 2 hives or 6, but more mouths to feed with 6. Now, Texas is a ton different than anywhere else.

    You can certainly sell caught swarms if you have buyers. Want to have buyers, join your local bee club. Generally a good idea anyway, all beekeeping is local. And swarm boxes don't have to be fancy. you can make your own, make them fit deep frames and you will be more successful, for some reason bees like deeps no matter what my back says, and when you sell the caught swarm include your box cost in the sale.

    I just made a nice batch of mead in september, decanted last week, I'm very happy with it, but I don't make too much.
     
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  5. Seb

    Seb New Member

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    Good to know. I'll probably have already joined a local club or group by the time I'm getting swarms (I won't even have bees for a while still). Thanks for the tip about the boxes. I'm pretty handy, so once I've seen a box or two, I can probably scratch together a few of my own.

    As for needing an encyclopedia, I'm not really looking for definitive answers; just a bit of advice from people who already have beekeeping experience. You've both given me great advice and I appreciate it.
     
  6. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Consider all the Sticky posts your encyclopedia. A lot of good information available on this site. And welcome!
     
  7. Seb

    Seb New Member

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    Will do. Thanks.