Urban Rooftop beekeeping for beginner.

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by guardian_10, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    Hello all,

    I live in Chennai, India which has a tropical climate with the average temperature ranging between 18 - 38 °C (64-100 °F) and average rainfall is about 140 cm. The temperature sometimes can reach 42 °C (108 °F).

    Right now, I am in the process of learning the basics of beekeeping online and would soon try to join a beekeeping course in my neighbourhood. I would like to keep an apiary initially as a hobby on the rooftop of my house. The roof is on above G+1 floor. There are 2 major parks within 1 km radius and quite a few houses growing flowering plants/trees surrounding me.

    Once I gain confidence, I would like to take it to the next step of setting up hives in my farm in the suburb which is surrounded by agricultural crops for probably a radius of more than 10 kms.

    I am planning to try my hand with either Apis cerana indica (a domesticated specie native of India) or Apis mellifer (European/Italian bee).

    Given these situations, would you advice me to try my hand at beekeeping on the rooftop? I would be providing some type of shelter from direct sun and rain. I thought that if someone in France, New York etc could raise bees on rooftop, why not me too. But, the only difference is that the weather does not goes to freezing temperature here. Since, I am starting off as a hobby, should I try to set up a top bar hive or go ahead and buy a Langstroth hive?

    I have read that bees can fly up to 6 miles in search of nectar, but I also read that bees will desert the hive if food is hard to find. Given these 2 views, I would like to know what are the chances of the bees deserting my rooftop hive?

    Sorry for the long post and thank you.
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    If they have shade, food, and water, they can control the temperature. I know nothing about Cerana, but I would suggest going with the most popular species in the area. You can always switch once you have some experience.

    I think your chances of success would be good.

    PS. Welcome to the forum. It will be good to hear about beekeeping in India.
     

  3. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    welcome to the forum. Sounds like you have a viable plan. I dont see any reason why it wouldnt work for you. The one thing you want to make sure is you have an easy way to get up and down from the roof. Honey supers get heavy and awkward to handle when full. :thumbsup:
     
  4. Walt B

    Walt B New Member

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    Guardian, Welcome to the forum. :hi:

    You get more rain than we get here, and our temperatures range from 0 to 41 C, but our bees do fine. I think you should be in good shape.

    I would suggest you start with Langstroth, 2 of them. You can always switch to top bar when you move out to the farm and have more experience.

    Walt
     
  5. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    there use to be a lot of bee keeping in very populated urban areas here that kept bees on single story roof tops. the first thing this accomplished is it gets the hives flight line up above people traffic. kind of worked on the 'out of sight, out of mind' principle. in urban areas water and bees can be an issue. a very docile bee should almost be a requirement. the timing decision as to when you work bees would be critically important.
     
  6. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    Welcome Guardian.
    You have come to the right place to learn about beekeeping. As Iddee said, start with the bees that are popular in your part of the world. I would start with Langstroth hives first, and would suggest starting with 2 colonies instead of just 1. This will allow you to compare them, and make your decisions based on this comparison.
    Again, Welcome to your news world.
     
  7. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    Thank you all for the informative and encouraging replies. After I posted this query and with much difficulty, I managed to find a local beekeeper here. I had a telephonic conversation with him and he is discouraging me from keeping Italian bee (Apis mellifera) saying that they need a constant supply of flowers over a vast area and what is available in my area would not be enough. He wants me to raise Asian bee (Apis cerana indica). For the types of bees available in my area, please see http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/apiculture/fe_api_typesofhoneybee.html

    The only reason he mentioned over the phone was that a colony of Italian bee was too costly for me to loose. Just for price comparison, how much does a package of bee cost? Also, how much only for the queen? Here, from what he mentioned, a package of Italian bees would cost roughly $300 (Ouch!!!! Too much for a hobby). I have made a few enquiries around and would know soon if that's the price or more or less.

    Anyway, he invited me to his house where he has his apiary on Sunday. Really excited to get to handle bees for the first time. I'm going to blast him with tons of questions.

    BTW, what species are people raising, who are keeping bee colonies in urban jungles on the rooftops.
     
  8. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    It sounds like you should start with Carrana until you learn the basics, then raise Italians on the farm to sell. Here we can only get 70 to 90 Dollars for a package.
     
  9. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    to broaden Iddee price desciption... a package of bees + queen runs from about $65 to $125. price alone may not be the best choice mechanism.

    cerana (I have read) are suppose to be resistant to the varroa. I am not sure how much honey they can make or their disposition.
     
  10. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    Ok, I got the opportunity to visit this guy and guess I will have to unwind a bit of what I have learned online regarding beekeeping. Most of what I have learned so far is based on commercial beekeeping of a. millifera using langstroth or top-bar hive. This guy has all the equipments required for beekeeping - hive tool, smoker, veil, etc. But, the only tool he used ever was his bare hand. No veil, no smoker, nothing. He just simply broke off a bit of comb and asked me to taste it then and there. The honey was a bit sour and he mentioned that it was because there were lots of tamarind trees around his place. His bees were a. cerana indica. As for the hive, it was either a Newton hive or a Marthandam hive (What!!! never heard of them before?). These are hives used by locals here for organic beekeeping. All the big fellows use langstroth et all.

    This guy has both a. millifera and a. cerana. But, seriously I could not differentiate between the two. Both looked about the same size to me.
    I got to handle the frame - no smoker, no veil. Would you believe he was wearing dark clothes too. I went there clothed in light colors and expected him to be wearing same too.

    Finally, I pleaded with him to let me get stung once. No alergies, not very painful. But, he warned that a sting from a angry bee would be more forceful and painful than this sting.

    Now for the sad bit. I would have to travel over 800kms / 500miles south to purchase my first colony. No, they won't courier or ship it. No-one here does that and they all think I've lost my nuts for asking if they would ship it. Wish I was in US or Europe only for this.

    Meet this person http://www.hindu.com/seta/2011/03/24/stories/2011032450251600.htm
     
  11. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    Thanks for the reference. I never even consider the poop end of the bee and it possible benefits. The frame in the picture is quite like the ones I use here for queen rearing nucs.
     
  12. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    Glad it benefited you. I just mentioned that link to have a look at the person I met and it did not cross my mind about the article when I posted it.
     
  13. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    If I were in your position, I would set up a few swarm traps and study the cutout and trapout forum.

    viewforum.php?f=35

    You can get your hives ready and fill them without buying bees.
     
  14. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    Regarding swarm traps, I was thinking about that option too. But, I am worried I would not be able to know what specie I captured. There are 5 specie here and some more prone to swarming and some producing very little quantity of honey. More about the local species in the link I posted above in post number #7.

    BTW, I don't know much about swarm lure. Where do I have to place the trap/hive? Does it have to be anywhere near an existing bee hive or can it be just anywhere and the bees will find it? In the meantime, I'll check out the link you posted. Thank you.
     
  15. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    One thing I forgot to mention is that this guy mentioned that A. Cerana is not lazy like A. Millifera. Once it swarms, it will not rest very close to the existing hive, but will fly off very far.
     
  16. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    As for the species, the care given to one will fit most all. The first caught will be for learning. The species won't matter. If they aren't good, requeen or replace them. It is highly probable that the first hive or two will die anyway, but the learning will be worth it. Then when you catch a good one, you will know more about caring for it.

    Lemongrass oil, old comb, or queen scent make good lures. For queen scent, ask your friend if he ever requeens. If so, ask for the dead queens. Put them in a small bottle of alcohol. A few drops of the alcohol in the trap will evaporate and leave the smell of the queen. It makes a very good lure.

    Place the trap anywhere within 1/4 mile of other hives for mellifera, I know nothing about Cerana. Likely about anywhere in your area. 3 to 4 meters above the ground is said to work best.
     
  17. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    How long should the dead queen be immersed in alcohol?

    Here's what I'll try to do. I'll wait and buy a colony from this guy when he has one available and also ask him for some extra used combs he might have. Then, the next hard part is finding citronella oil and lemongrass oil. Everyone talks about India as an major exporter of software, but it's still in the dark ages when it comes to online shopping. Trying to find and buy some items is still a major problem here. Once, I can find these items, I'll try to set up a swarm lure and hope I get my 2nd colony free.

    My worries about species arose only after I met this guy. Before that, I thought that beekeeping means compulsorily wearing a veil and having a smoker ready. But, a. cerana seems very docile. So, I don't want to spend more on equipments now initially. I am just starting off as a hobby for now. If I were to simply lure some bees and don't know about the species, I'm worried it might be a more aggressive one which stings. Call me stingy (pun unintended :mrgreen: ) if you want.
     
  18. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    Guardian:
    I would advise you to have AT LEAST a veil. Especially starting out. One day your bees can be as nice as possible, and the next day-they can be as agressive as a mother bear with cubs. Many factors are involved with the behavior of a colony. I know older beekeepers who routinely open their hives with no protective gear at all, but I'm not that brave yet. Since bees instinctively go for the face and eyes, a veil seems like a necessary piece of equipment. Likewise, a smoker is kept smoldering whenever I open my hives. As far as gloves go, sometimes I use them-and sometimes not.
    Good luck, and please keep us posted on your progress.
     
  19. guardian_10

    guardian_10 New Member

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    Ok, a veil is high on my purchase list. Now to try and find either some dead queen bees or lemongrass oil and old comb.
     
  20. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    I'm getting in on this a bit late--but, first of all, Welcome Guardian!

    If I recall correctly, A. cerana is considered to be a "stingless" bee (but I think it bites). That's a mixed blessing. Another mixed blessing is that A. cerana tends to swarm very frequently (which is why it manages to avoid varoa infestations) but also isn't a good producer of honey.
    Try to check out these two points on the internet.
    If you go the path of collecting swarms, you'll probably catch cerana and then you should re-queen to a different variety.