Seven things you must know before becoming a beekeeper

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Charles, Jan 29, 2009.

  1. Charles

    Charles New Member

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    1. Before Getting Started

    You must be willing to spend at least $350 on equipment to get started. You must also invest in modest recurring costs, such as medication and repairs.

    You must also be willing to invest time. This includes tending to your hives, making repairs and updating your inspection log. One colony can keep you active 40 hours a season; one colony is typically 30,000 to 60,000 bees.
    And of course, you have to ensure that none of your family members is highly allergic to bee stings. And you must educate and cooperate with your neighbors.

    And you must also be willing to get stung! Bees aren’t aggressive, but accidents do happen, and they will naturally defend their hive if you drop a frame.

    You should also check with your state department of agriculture to see if bee colonies in your area must be registered. You should also check local zoning laws to see if keeping bees in your area is legal.

    2. Lot Size

    Your property and the surrounding two mile radius area must provide a steady supply of nectar- and pollen-rich plants from spring through fall. If there are not enough plants within a two mile radius area, the colony may starve to death. A nearby water supply is also absolutely essential.

    Another consideration is how much space you can dedicate to the bees’ inbound and outbound flight zone to and from the hive. The flight zone should not be used frequently by people or pets.

    Some beekeepers have urban lots as small as 110 feet by 60 feet! If you do have a small urban lot, it’s a good idea not to have more than two hives. Some beekeepers have several acres. The space you need mostly depends on pollen sources available within 12 square miles and the size of your colony.

    3. Equipment

    Here’s a rundown of the most basic equipment you need for beekeeping:

    Supers - These hive boxes hold 10 frames.
    feeders - These feeders help a brand new colony get started. Fill the feeders with a mixture that is five pounds of sugar and five pints of water; simmer until the sugar dissolves. Stop feeding the bees when a nectar flow begins; the sugar syrup will compromise the quality of the honey sugars--besides, it’s illegal to sell adulterated honey.
    Bee smoker and bellows - Smoke calms bees and masks any alarm pheromones released by guard bees.
    Hood and veil - This basic beekeeper garb will keep you from getting stung on the eyeball!
    Vented leather gloves - Leather gloves are sting-proof. They should be long-sleeved and well-fitted. Gloves help keep you from getting stung.
    Hive tool - This tool is similar to a pry bar, with a notch on one end to pull nails and scrape burr comb. A bent lip on the opposite end helps pry frames and boxes apart.
    Log book - A simple notebook will do, with enough space to keep notes for several seasons.

    4. Installing the Colony

    The best time to launch a beekeeping operation is in spring. Blooming flowers and trees will supply ample nectar and pollen for the colony.

    Bees can be ordered from any apiary; different apiaries stock different types of bees. You can order bees by the pound, as well as new queens. You should give the apiary approximately 60 days to prepare your bees. You should also request that the apiary marks your queen prior to shipping, if that is something you choose to do.

    Bees are delivered in screened boxes via U.S. mail or United Parcel Service. A box of bees typically contains two to five pounds of bees; that’s about 3,500 bees per lb. This box includes all female worker bees, a handful of male drones, and a small box--called a queen's cage--with one young mated queen.

    One way to install new bees into the super is: 1) remove four frames; 2) remove the lid and feeding can from the shipping box; 3) gently spill the bees into the super; 3) remove the cork on the queen cage and attach a small wire to the non-drilled end; 4) slide the queen cage between two frames toward the center of the super; 5) carefully insert the frames into the super; 6) place the inner cover and lid on the super; 7) install a feeder so the bees can produce spaces for the queen to lay eggs. There are many variations to this procedure. You should investigate several before deciding on one.

    5. Inspecting the Hive

    You should inspect the hives at least every two weeks to ensure that the bees have plenty of room, are storing honey, are free of disease, and that the queen is laying eggs. You will spend approximately 20 to 30 minutes per colony. If you observe odd behavior, you should inspect the hives more frequently. If you are not actively involved with observing the colony, it will die. If at all possible, contact a local beekeeper to be with you for the first two or three inspections.

    You should inspect whether: 1) the bees are building new comb on the foundation; 2) there is brood in the center of the frame of comb; 3) there is honey being stored; and 4) whether pollen is present in the cells. A normal hive will have most of the center frames filled with brood, a small arch of honey at the top of the frame, and some pollen stored between them. The outer most frames will likely be stored honey and/or pollen only.

    Be sure to log your observations, particularly swarming behavior, treatments, feeding, or anything unusual. In the log book, you’ll want to include: date inspected; number of colonies; number of swarms; general health; any signs of disease; estimated poundage of honey; whether the queen was located; whether there are any freshly laid eggs or young larvae; whether other insects or predators were sighted; and anything noteworthy or different from the last inspection.

    Colonies can fall victim to bacteria, viruses, protozoans, fungi and parasitic mites. Sometimes hive equipment is attacked by other insects. The most common bee diseases are American foulbrood, European foulbrood, chalkbrood, nosema, wax moths, tracheal mites and varroa mites. Medication and treatments are essential for the colony’s survival. Treatments should be given as often as recommended.

    6. Swarm Capturing

    You can capture swarms with pheromones that can be placed in swarm capturing boxes; these can be ordered from beekeeping supply companies. Contrary to their appearance, swarms are usually quite gentle.

    Be sure there are no obstacles below the swarm; pure clearance is ideal, but may be impossible, particularly if the swarm is in a tree. Make a platform to hold a cardboard box that’s large enough to house the swarm. Place the box beneath the swarm and powerfully shake the object it is attached to in one strong motion. This is easy for tree branches, but can be tricky if the swarm is attached to a mailbox or car bumper. You may need to scrape the bees off the object. Try to get the entire swarm.

    7. Harvesting Honey

    Honey is typically harvested from July until September. The season may be a bit longer in warmer regions.

    Be sure to leave enough honey for the colony to survive winter. You should leave 40 pounds absolute minimum in the far south, and up to 100 lbs. in the northern states. To estimate this amount, check the honey supply in the brood chamber. A deep frame full of honey weighs approximately six pounds. Two shallow frames equals one deep frame. A new hive should have a double brood chamber with one box completely full of honey in the northern states; the lower box should have outside frames filled with honey.

    Harvesting honey from plastic frames by the crush & strain method.

    For plastic frames with plastic foundation, use a large container, such as a five-gallon bucket. Use a filter cloth, such as cheesecloth or paint strainer sacks sold by paint dealers. Place your hive tool at the edge of the frame end bar and press it into the wax. Push the wax and honey onto the straining cloth, draped over the container; the honey passes through, but the wax is strained out. Scrape the honey from the foundation with your hive tool; the wax comb and honey come off quite easily. You can reuse the frames in the super. The bees will clean them and reuse them. Bottle the filtered honey.
     
  2. Rusty Pan

    Rusty Pan New Member

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    One thing that a beginner should know/or include in placement of hives, is that they are not accessable by livestock, as they will rub againist the hives, then look out.
     

  3. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    HOW TRUE.... Nor accessible to skunks, bears, or two legged skunks.
     
  4. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    I learned the hard way about the two legged skunks. Had five strong hive at a college that also had a big farm that grew veggie crops. All of the hives had between 3 and 5 supers of honey on them (I know they had honey in them because I had check them two weeks before). They were located in the edge of the woods in a holler. The college decided to build a dam across the holler and make a huge pond. Called me to come move the bees out. Knowing they were going to be heavy I was going to use their front end loader to set them in the back of the truck. Well to my suprise someone had robbed all of the honey and set the empty supers and frames back on the hives. I could not belive it. What a long ride home with nothing to show for it. At least all they got was they honey.

    G3
     
  5. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    Stand BEHIND the hive when working the hive :eek: .
     
  6. busybee

    busybee New Member

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    G3, I hate to hear stories like that. :cry: Why is 'Man' the worst predator of all? The others don't know better as it is for their survivial but man should. You should have set some bear traps around the hives covered with grass and such so they couldn't see them.
     
  7. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    busybee I always just look at it like this...............it will not do them any good. Sooner or later they will pay for it in some way.

    G3
     
  8. Charles

    Charles New Member

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    :amen: to that
     
  9. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    But it's so much more fun when a load of rock salt speeds up their pay time. :thumbsup:
     
  10. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    Charles's list:
    1. Before Getting Started
    tecumseh:
    this was a nice basic list, spend your money here first.
    Bee smoker and bellows - Smoke calms bees and masks any alarm pheromones released by guard bees.
    Hood and veil - This basic beekeeper garb will keep you from getting stung on the eyeball!
    Vented leather gloves - Leather gloves are sting-proof. They should be long-sleeved and well-fitted. Gloves help keep you from getting stung.
    Hive tool - This tool is similar to a pry bar, with a notch on one end to pull nails and scrape burr comb. A bent lip on the opposite end helps pry frames and boxes apart.

    2. Lot Size
    tecumseh>
    location, location, location. how well the bees do is highly dependent on location. some geographical diversification can be acquired by moving bees even a short distance from your home base. when looking for other sites to set down bees I put a good water sources as the number one consideration on my list of things to look for.

    3. Equipment
    tecumseh>
    figure at least 4 to 5 boxes per hives (40 to 50 frames per hives). this plus the price differential should suggest to ya' why you need to buy frames by the hundreds.

    4. Installing the Colony
    tecumseh>
    although I sell nucs I recommend every beginer start with a package of bees and new frames and foundation. there is something quite magically about seeing a package grow up to the size of a thriving hive. at the front side of installing a package you will need to have some means of feeding the hive that limits the opportunity for robbing. the beginer's kit boardman feeder that shoves in the front door will definitely not qualify here. the friction pale feeder provided with the package and a empty shell over the first story works quite well and requires no additional expense.

    5. Inspecting the Hive
    tecumseh>
    have some purpose in mind before you light the smoker. if you start with a package and do use a feeder you will need to check and refill this every 5 days to one week so you will have frequent opportunity to do the 'bioliogical' check list of the things Charles provided.

    As a general rule during the primary nectar flow you typically try to interrupt the hives activity as little as possilbe. if the flow is heavy and of some duration (one of those many things you will need to learn and measure) you will need to pay constant attention to adequate space and provide additional boxes (the first thing you can do to limit swarming). Once a frame or boxes is capped you may wish to exercise #7,

    6. Swarm Capturing
    tecumseh>
    possible area of great reward or great problems. hives that swarm early are likely issued from thriving hives and therefore can represent the very best in queen stock. if you are in an active africanized area find some lab to test for degree of africanization.... after capture you can always requeen with something of known source. treat the swarm like a package and feed until it is a box of bees.


    7. Harvesting Honey
    tecumseh>
    if you have quantity to remove make a fume board and buy a botttle of fisher's bee quick. if you only need to remove a small amount a bee brush works quite fine. unless you face extreme conditions taking a little will not set the bees back much and there is nothing like the first taste of your own home grown product. if you don't wish to invest in an extractor then raising boxes of comb honey ain't such a bad way to go.

    don't EXPECT any signicant honey crop until year 2. the exception to this are truely of boomer status.

    my 2.5 denaro...
     
  11. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    I disagree. Stand beside the hive. But you are right, in a way. Don't work your hive from the front. Don't stand in the bees flight path.
     
  12. Charles

    Charles New Member

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    Thanks for the add-ons tec! This thread is turning into a good source of info for anyone just starting to get their research done... :thumbsup:
     
  13. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    9. Education is expensive, no matter which school you attend, the school of hard knox or Ha vad.
    10. No matter how big you build it, your honey house won't be big enuf.
     
  14. Bens-Bees

    Bens-Bees New Member

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    I disagree. I don't think I've spent $350 yet to this day. Gloves, and veil are all you REALLY need to buy (assuming you have the basic skills to be able to build a hive from scrap wood, otherwise you might have to buy a hive). The rest of the stuff is all about how enjoyable you want your new hobby to be.

    It's just like fishing. You don't have to get a 60' top of the line ocean-going vessel to go fishing, you don't even need a top of the line rod/reel. All you need is a hook and some line, the rest is optional, but makes for a more enjoyable experience.

    Or as little as 4, it all depends.

    No you don't. You just have to be careful and wear the proper protection if you aren't willing to get stung.

    Highly unlikely if you're only keeping one or two hives.

    Supers - can also hold only 8 frames, or even 5 frames if you want a nuc. All are easy to build from scrap lumber you can probably pick up for free from the nearest construction site (just ask the foreman). Also, a top bar hive is probably the easiest hive to make and manage, so beginner hobbyists may want to take that into consideration.
    feeders - Not necessary most of the time, but can be made using any glass jar with a good sealing lid.
    Bee smoker and bellows - Not absolutely necessary.
    Hood and veil - Definately a necessity for new beekeepers that don't want to get stung.
    Vented leather gloves - Definately a necessity for new beekeepers that don't want to get stung.
    Hive tool - A flathead screwdriver will also work pretty well until you can afford (or remember to) buy a $4 hive tool.
    Log book - Since you obviously have a computer, put it to good use and record this information in a spreadsheet. There, your computer just saved you $3 on a notebook.

    Forget about ordering bees. The best bees are free. Unless you live in an area that has a chance of having AHB swarms, just put your name on craigslist for swarm removal and get your bees from a swarm.

    Bees have lived just fine for millions of years without beekeepers peering in on them every couple of weeks. Once a month from spring to fall is plenty as long as you don't mind having your colony throw a reproductive swarm out every year.

    Also, forget spending 20-30 minutes per colony. Bring a good quality digital camera and pull the frames out just long enough to photograph them, almost everything you want to know you can find out from examining the photographs later. About the only 3 things you can't learn from them are the bees' temperament, the smell of the hive, and if they are acting odd.

    Or good genetics from feral colonies combined with a few pest-management techniques will do the trick without killing your bees by overdosing them on medications that aren't always needed.

    But only if there is a diagnosed problem with the hive. Don't just go treating bees for anything and everything or you'll just end up creating resistant strains of bacteria or viruses.

    Although this is probably the easiest way to harvest honey for a beginner, if an extractor can be borrowed from the local beekeeping association, plastic frames/foundation works great in an extractor.
     
  15. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    [quote="SgtMaj]
    Also, forget spending 20-30 minutes per colony. Bring a good quality digital camera and pull the frames out just long enough to photograph them, almost everything you want to know you can find out from examining the photographs later. About the only 3 things you can't learn from them are the bees' temperament, the smell of the hive, and if they are acting odd.
    [/quote]

    I don't disagree w/ most of your disagreements, but taking the time to photograph each comb certainly must take more time than it does to look at the combs that you want to look at, for whatever reason you are looking at them, and to see what you want to see.

    I would say that all of the things that you want to find out by photographing frames one can tell by just looking at them first hand. And what if you took a picture of a frame and later saw AFB? What a lot of work it would be to find the correct colony. Assuming that you have more than one.
     
  16. Bens-Bees

    Bens-Bees New Member

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    Naw, it takes just like 2 seconds to photograph each side of each frame. If I get a fuzzy one out of the bunch, that's ok, I'll get a look at it next time... and I break up the pictures by taking a picture of the hive bodies which have the hive ID on them so I know exactly which hive they are of.

    Of course, if I had several hundred to thousands of hives, I probably wouldn't do that as it would be too time consuming overall. But I'm not a commercial beek, and neither should be anyone that's just starting out.
     
  17. Charles

    Charles New Member

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    Hi SgtMaj, thanks for the input, most of your thoughts I agree with but when putting this down in writing I wanted to think worse case just for the benefit of the new beek...

    I could go through these one by one and add my own opinions but I've already put those in my original post. If anything, I think that a new beek should take from this thread that there is alway's more than one way to do things.

    Oh and great idea on the digital camera, never thought about that :thumbsup:
     
  18. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    charles writes:
    I could go through these one by one and add my own opinions but I've already put those in my original post. If anything, I think that a new beek should take from this thread that there is alway's more than one way to do things.

    tecumseh:
    well yea there are a few 'right' ways and a lot of 'wrong' ways. leaning a bit on my experience whether a way is right or wrong will somewhat to highly depend upon specific location.
     
  19. Bens-Bees

    Bens-Bees New Member

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    I never would have either, until I sold a hive and the buyer wanted photos of it before making the long drive... once I snapped the pictures I realized that I could see everything right down to every varroa mite in the hive (there were only 2 which I thought was pretty good). After that I determined that it was much easier to look for eggs and things in pictures than it was in person (my eyesight just isn't good enough anymore to easily pick out things like eggs, even with my contact lenses in).
     
  20. Charles

    Charles New Member

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    and if you see something unclear, your one forum post away from many eye's and ideas on what you have going on :)