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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I noticed there was already another topic thread on other people's beekeeping endeavors; However. I thought I'd start a new one for those thinking and/or debating about whether or not to start beekeeping . Now is the time to start planning if you want to start beekeeping by this coming spring.

I've been keeping bees for almost 20 years now. I'd be lying if I said "I've seen it all" in this hobby and tend to believe I've just been lucky in many regards (as in only being stung 5 times total and never had any major diseases in the hives). Due to a relatively new disease called "CCD" (Coloney Collapse Disorder) demand for beekeepers is at an all time high. The biggest excuse I hear why people won't keep bees- "I'm allergic to bee stings". Of course they're allergic to them... we all are, to one degree or another. Only 7% of the US population has a risk of a potentially life-threatning reaction. Most of those people are allergic to other things as well though. My facetious response to that is "If G*d didn't want us to keep bees he wouldn't have invented the "EpiPen".

In regards to "prepping", bees are one of best all around assets one can have (In my opinion of course)... providing you're in a place you plan on settling at. Aside from the obvious of honey- the only food that NEVER goes bad, bees provide pollen (which is loaded with B-complex vitamins) essential for good health, bee's wax for candles, lip balms and topical medicinal applications, waxing bow and arrow strings, just to name a few benefits. I believe they are also an effect means of a second line of defense against unwanted human visitors. When people come to the house, very few want to venture into the apiary (beeyard). They see those white boxes and become rather uneasy. Heaven help the person who stumbles into and tips over one in the dark.

The first item on the agenda- the bees. You talk with 10 beekeepers, you're going to probably get 10 different answers on any given technique... this is what I have found that worked best for me. Ordering packaged bees starts in December. Granted, there are a few other ways of obtaining bees; However, starting off with a 3 lb package and a fertilized queen I believe is the best for the beginner. I keep forgetting there are other nationalities represented here, this applies to people in the US. To find a reputable apiary, I would highly suggest perusing the Dadant website (http://www.dadant.com/)- the "packaged bee suppliers" icon on the left side of the page. This isn't a plug for Dadant, they're just the closest place for me and they've never steered me wrong. As per the variety or strain of bee, there are several. My personal preference is the "Italian" strain. Good producers and easy to handle. You want to order them as early as possible to have your order secured and delivered around the first signs of the flowers. When I first started a 3 lb package and a fertilized queen cost $25.00. The cost has skyrocketed up to over $100.00 now for the same package at some places. Quite the lesson in economics of laws of "supply and demand". The bees are shipped via the US postal service. When they arrive at the post office, be prepared for a 6 am phone called from a nervous postal employee saying "Could you please come pick your bees up right now?". Next topic- equipment.
 

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Thank you for starting this thread, have been thinking about bees a bit lately.
 

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2012 will be my third try at tending bees.

I have tried two different years to care for bees in hopes of having my own honey. Local honey has many benefits for allergies. The reason I failed so miserable is 1. Started too late in the season ( June). I ordered my bees in February and I was too green to be aggressive to demand my bees at their proper due date. I was told the bees were back ordered and to wait. If you do not get your bees at the proper time delay this project till the following year. If you luck out and some one wants to sell the kit with honey and bees.....this seemed to serve other beginners in our area quite well 2. The next attempt to raise bees .....I put them next to our rented fields and I am sure some spray from our farmer killed them.
In 2012 with a tutor who will walk me through the process, and with several hives instead of one I have better odds.
There are many clubs to join on line and by county who are willing to give advice.
I'll be checking back for any ideas that may improve my chances this time around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have tried two different years to care for bees in hopes of having my own honey. Local honey has many benefits for allergies. The reason I failed so miserable is 1. Started too late in the season ( June). I ordered my bees in February and I was too green to be aggressive to demand my bees at their proper due date. I was told the bees were back ordered and to wait. If you do not get your bees at the proper time delay this project till the following year. If you luck out and some one wants to sell the kit with honey and bees.....this seemed to serve other beginners in our area quite well 2. The next attempt to raise bees .....I put them next to our rented fields and I am sure some spray from our farmer killed them.
In 2012 with a tutor who will walk me through the process, and with several hives instead of one I have better odds.
There are many clubs to join on line and by county who are willing to give advice.
I'll be checking back for any ideas that may improve my chances this time around.
June can bad time to start if you're starting from scratch (as in not having any foundation drawn out into comb). If memory serves me correctly, it takes about 8 lbs. of honey to make 1 lb. of comb. If the comb is already drawn out, the bees can focus on gathering for food. A little (cheater) technique I've used in the past when starting late is feeding them sugar water (1:1 ratio) by placing a quart-sized bowl (with twigs and grass so they don't drown) inside an empty super on top. So long as the 2nd deep hive body is filled with honey (where the bees will cluster when it gets cold), you're bees should be fine for food. You won't get any honey that year; However, you'll have a good start on a stronger coloney next season.

Spraying of chemicals is a major concern. My hives are located in a waterway between two bean fields. I just had to tell them (the applicators/neighbors with fields next to me) I had bees and would appreciate them letting me know when they planned on spraying. Dropping off a jar of honey from your harvest at the end of the season helps. The night before spraying you just want to staple a piece of screen to cover the hive enterance to keep them in for a day or two.

Hopefully your bee associations there are more helpful than they are here *LOL*. When I first started, I joined one locally that was filled with a bunch of old timers who knew what they were doing and my best source for information when starting. Over the years they died out and the group became infested with a bunch of ... well... pseudo-intellectual bee philosophers more interested in parties and social functions than actual beekeeping. I can say this as absolute fact- when it comes to beekeeping the "KISS" (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle works the best. My first two personal laws of beekeeping- Don't try to humanize bees and bother them as little as possible. The first year keeping bees I purchased all new, top of the line equipment. Primed an painted every hive body and super as if I were painting the Sistine Chapel, Every frame, glued and nailed with exacting precision. Foundation, carefully cleaned and installed. Everything neat, clean, and ready to go (going as far as to measure frame distances for the bee space). Introduced the bees to their new home. Went out every day to feed them sugar water and suppliments. Within a week they swarmed and left. I was thinking in terms of what I thought they would like instead of thinking about what they like. Turns out, they like old and not so nice hives and frames (things that resemble the inside of a hollow tree). They like doing "housework" and "caulking" (propolis) on their own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Uggggh! I just lost an hour's worth of typing about equipment! FREE: Golden lab who likes to paw at computer keyboards.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Equipment.

When it comes to beekeeping equipment, it's no different than any other hobby or endeavor of prepping, it's just a matter of how much money you want to spend. With a modicum of woodworking skills, one can even make ones own hive bodies, supers, frames lids, and bottom boards with little effort. The day your bees arrive this is what you will need (per each 3 lb. package of bees) to have assembled and ready to go. One bottom board, one deep hive body, one top cover, frame spacing tool, and 10 frames with foundation. For the beekeeper- white coveralls, a veil/hat combination, smoker, hive tool, and beekeeping gloves.

Side notes/thoughts: Some beekeepers use as few as 8 frames for their configuration. The purpose behind this is to have to bees draw out deeper combs that holds more honey per cell. It makes uncapping easier and produces thicker cut combs (for eating whole). The problem with this is bees do everything in their power to obtain a thing called "bee space" (which is 3/8th's). They hate large voids and will draw out comb until they get that bee space. Sometimes the bees will build across combs- defeating the purpose of having foundation and frames. For the beginner, I would suggest a 10 frame configuration. They're almost self-spacing to obtain a good frame space. To get the proper spacing though- a spacing tool is recommended (kinda looks like a big metal comb uses to brush your hair with) . There are self-spacing metal bars available that are nailed to the inside frame rails but, I've found them hard to work with when the bees glue them in with propolis (bee glue).

When it comes to frames and foundation I stick with wood frames with Duragilt foundation. There is an all-inclusive frame called "Plasticell" (made in China). I've tried them and absolutely hate em (and only use them in extreme cases when I have no other choice). When cold, they crack. When hot, they warp. If/when mice gnaw on them do any degree, they have to be pitched; Whereas, wood frames can be repaired. While I haven't taken any of the Plasticell frames to a lab for analysis, it appears they support mold growth as well. Some foundations are pre-wired (already having wire imbedded for support in the foundation), some you can wire yourself. Duragilt isn't pre-wired and just has two metal strips along the side with two (un-necessary, in my opinion) holes at the bottom. The foundation is held in by 2 or 3 pins on each side that resembles old fashion clothes pins. Some frames have a groove at the bottom the foundation rests on, others are just two pieces of wood with a gap in the middle (which needs to be fastened it. The top bar of the frame has a strip of wood that is removed then nailed back on after the foundation is installed. Duraglit is just my way of keeping my options open in the event I ever want to do cut comb.

Painting the exterior of the deep hive bodies and supers (do not paint the inside). It's not absolutely necessary they be painted nor are there any scientific facts of why they're painted white (other than perhaps reflecting sunlight on hot days). Paint does protect the outside from the elements and does make it easier for the beekeeper to see the hives; In addition, does give other people fair warning of their existence. I paint mine with a good exterior (non-latex) primer and paint. I nail a sheet of aluminum or sheet metal on the top cover. That helps shed and protect against the rain and snow. The bottom board is completely painted. Nothing rots a bottom board faster than moisture. That's why I keep my hives up on a pallet. A little trick I had to learn the hard way. Place a brick or something under the bottom board at the back to make the hive tilt slightly forward. This prevents water and debris from collecting at the back of the bottom board.

Equipment for the beekeeper. Realistically, the first day you receive your bees will likely be the easiest day to work with them that you'll ever have. The risk of getting stung (without provoking them) is most likely at it's lowest. It's a new swarm, new queen, and no hive to protect. There is an old saying "Real beekeepers never wear gloves (just the veil)"- I find no shame in admitting that when I work with bees I'm dressed like an armadillo from head to toe. I hate getting stung. Every possible means of a bee getting into my suit sealed and secured. My fear/dislike of getting stung actually makes me concetrate harder and work better/slower when handling the bees. The smoker isn't really necessary at this stage of introducing your bees to their new home either; However, if this is your first time with bees it will help you get some practice in. I fire mine up every time I work with the bees regardless... out of habit I suppose. If you do get stung... a few puffs of smoke on the affected area will help mask the scent emitted from the sting site (lessening the chances of other bees joining in on the attack).

White coveralls. I have no idea why white and have never bothered to research it or ask someone else. The only fact I know is bees do not like the darker colors such as black. They've learned to associate these colors with their primary attackers- Bears, *****, etc.- black noses, dark eyes. There has been speculation that white is a soothing color to them; However, I've never seen any actual scientific data to support this.

The veil/hat combination. This is the most important piece of equipment for the beekeepers personal protection in my opinion. Bees, when they attack go for the eyes, nose, and mouth primarily. Once again this goes back to the animals that attack the hive for food. They see the dark nose, dark eyes sniffing around first. They sense the carbon dioxide/heat of the breath. In the event you are working with the bees when they are grumpy, you may find them hitting your veil trying to sting your face. Do not swat at them, this only antagonizes them further. As difficult as it may be, just ignore them and continue working. The key is to work slowly/clamly yet deliberately. Breath normally and relax.

The hive tool and frame spacer. The hive tool is like a small pry bar. I don't own one and just use a carpenters flat bar. Bees make a glue/caulking substance called "propolis" that comes from tree sap, resins, and assorted plants. The bees use this to seal all cracks and crevices inside the hive. Frames, lids, between hive bodies... you name it. The first time you introduce the bees to their home you shouldn't have any issues with propolis; Therefore, not needed. It's when you check your swarm in the coming weeks you may. When the temperature is warm, the propolis is gummy. When cold, it's as hard as a rock. This is where the hive tool becomes necessary. The spacer tool will be used to properly align your frames. Proper spacing increases the likelyhood your bees will draw out the comb uniformly- making it easier to remove frames for inspection and extraction.

Next entry- Introducing the bees to the hive.
 

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Thanks a bunch...we are planning to start some hives by spring, so thanks for the heads up! I'm reading and taking notes!!!
 

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Bees

Thanks...there is a ton of useful information you have offered. I will especially remember the sugar water in the upper box next time around. I was thinking of throwing something over the structure to give the bees extra warmth and protection for the winter months. Perhaps a tent like tarp is in order to prevent winds from taking their toll?

I learned about the plastic trays first time too. My bees hated it. I will never use them again.

I use double and very heavy clothing with my pants legs tucked in very high boots, veiled hat and gloves and fire proof gloves ( from my wood stove). Then I am set with my smoker to investigate my hive.

Do you check them out sun set ( though this is when every bee is at home) I heard to never check them in the rain.

Thanks again for the information.

Bees are enjoyable!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks...there is a ton of useful information you have offered. I will especially remember the sugar water in the upper box next time around. I was thinking of throwing something over the structure to give the bees extra warmth and protection for the winter months. Perhaps a tent like tarp is in order to prevent winds from taking their toll?

I learned about the plastic trays first time too. My bees hated it. I will never use them again.

I use double and very heavy clothing with my pants legs tucked in very high boots, veiled hat and gloves and fire proof gloves ( from my wood stove). Then I am set with my smoker to investigate my hive.

Do you check them out sun set ( though this is when every bee is at home) I heard to never check them in the rain.

Thanks again for the information.

Bees are enjoyable!!!
I recall reading years ago about the problem with external feeders. If one isn't vigilant, the lid underneath from where they feed does support mold growth which is transfered to the bee's tongue. I've also heard the stories about direct sun heating up the sugar solution causing it to ferment into alcohol. While I believe it's possible (I tend to believe bees would consume the solution completely before it had a chance to become alcohol), I've never seen a drunk bee before. If you do decide to feed inside, I would suggest using an empty deep hive body and a quart sized plastic "Glad" rectangular type storage container. Plastic is more flexible and easier to remove when the bees glue it down with propolis. Bees aren't good swimmers. With that being said it's a good idea to toss sticks, reeds, grass into the solution so they have something to hang on to. Once a week feeding is all that's required.

Due to high winter kill rates over the past few winters, I would agree with you 100% about creating a windbreak. In years past I didn't do anything special in the winter; However, I'm planning on trying straw bales myself this year to hopefully reduce the winter kill rate. What could be problematic- mice. They try their hardest to gnaw through the hive reducer bars to begin with without the bales to help keep em warm too.

The general rule of thumb I have for checking bees- If I don't want work with them, they don't want me there either. Too hot, rainy, extremely humid, too cold, etc., bees tend to be grumpy when they can't forage/work efficiently (like me). I like to check the bees when it's sunny and there calm winds- any time during the day (usually in the morning before the heat of the day sets in during the summer and when the bees are entering and exiting the hive relatively quickly). "A busy bee is a happy bee" (less prone to stinging). I also make an attempt to check the hives at least once every 11 days (the amount of time needed for new queen cells to be produced) and do a quick inspection for mites, diseases, and queen laying pattern. Of course add/replace mite treatment strips as needed.

An experiment I want to try next Spring. Feeding a couple of hive nothing but soda (one grape flavored and one orange) to see if these flavors will be imparted into the honey.
 

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Uggggh! I just lost an hour's worth of typing about equipment! FREE: Golden lab who likes to paw at computer keyboards.
LOL

Been there and done that ... but mine was the cat, not a lab.

And thanks for sharing. :2thumb: Bee keeping is a very cool skill to have.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Brief summary/checklist

1. Ordered bees early.
2. Purchased or obtained equipment.
3. Assembled equipment
4. Picked a good spot for the hives*

* Actually it may be a good thing to look for even before ordering bees. Making sure they're going to be in a good, safe location, with plenty of flower sources and access to water. I face my hives East predominantly because bad weather patterns arrive from the other three directions the most. An anecdotal belief of mine is also the sun hits the front of the hive first, lighting the entrance up and warming the hive up quicker- so they can get to work earlier.

Further thoughts about equipment (obtaining and using used equipment from another beekeeper). If you decide to go this route, you need to be EXTRA careful by cleaning and sterilizing all items. This can't be emphasized enough. Foul brood, for example is one of the worse diseases one can have in a coloney and can be transfered by several means. Empty hive bodies and supers, comb, even the hive tool. The bacterium can remain dormant for up to 50 years. If a bee inspector stops by to examine your colonies and discovers Foul brood, he will demand you burn your hive completely- bees and all on the spot. Insist that he use your hive tool to inspect the hive or sterilize his first before the inspection. To recondition/sterilize used hives- either coat the inside of the hive body/super with gasoline with a paintbrush, stack them 2 to three high, toss in a match and let the gasoline burn itself out and/or smother with a wet towel when the inside is slighly charred. The other technique (which is MUCH safer) is using a plumber's or propane weed torch to slightly char the inside. Clean the outside by scraping off loose and flaking paint, clean with a strong bleach solution, prime, and paint. Generally, I don't mess with someone elses used frames/comb and just melt them down for wax. The hive tool- just a little heat with the torch does the trick. Heat and/or bleach.

One possible minor exception to this rule. If starting from scratch, one increase the chances of success if one obtains a frame or two of drawn out comb from a fellow (and reputable) local beekeeper to incorporate with the new frames and foundation (placed in the center). It gives the bees a chance to work right away (by cleaning up/repairing the comb and cells) and it gives the queen an opportunity to start laying more quickly... instead of wating for the workers to draw out the foundation into cells. One just has to do this technique once. Another suggestion. If you are planning on splitting colonies in the future and need frames of drawn out comb, instead of stacking supers on top of the brood chamber and the deep hive body for their honey stores, just keep stacking deep hive bodies with new foundation on top for the bees to draw out new comb. Depending on the flow and feeding, you may get some honey as well to help feed the split next season.
 

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How much space is needed around the hive? I know bees will fly somewhere between 50 and 100 (?) miles in search of nectar, but I've never read how much space is needed in the immediate vicinity.

Also, what's the best kind of hive? This top bar style?



Or this one?

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ezmerelda-

"How much space is needed around the hive? I know bees will fly somewhere between 50 and 100 (?) miles in search of nectar, but I've never read how much space is needed in the immediate vicinity."

"Also, what's the best kind of hive? This top bar style?"

There isn't a set formula or rule of thumb like for cattle (e.g. one acre per cow in Illinois or five acres per cow in Arkansas) for bees that at I'm aware of. People have bees in the large cities and do fine without a 10 acre Clover field across the road.

As per distance bees will fly to forage- "They'll go as far as they have to" is the standard answer. Generally it's a 5 to 7 miles radius around the hive. Beyond 4 miles is the cut-off line where the foraging bees are consuming more than what's being brought back to the coloney.

Top bar v.s. Langstroth hives. I've never used nor have ever worked with the top bar hive system personally... so I may have a biased opinion. I have read about them before and their advantages (good for places with limited resources, ease of coloney inspection, and the regions they're best suited for); However, looking at the photograph you can tell there is no place to add extra space (i.e. supers) on top and you'd have to rotate the frames more frequently in the event of a great honey flow or have a large bee population. While speculating, my major concerned would be overcrowding and the increased possiblility of swarming. My suggestion would be to evaluate the available resources for the bees, climate, and your physical capabilities to determine which system is the most viable for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Introducing the bees to their new home.

Once the bees are in your possession and all your equipment is in place, it's time to get them into their new home. The bees will arrive in a wooden box (screened in on two sides), with a can of a sugar solution suspended into the box, and a queen cage inside (sometimes accompanied with "attendants" in there with her, sometimes alone). If possible, have the place from which you ordered your bees mark her for identification (which makes her easier to spot when inspecting the hives). If you can't get your bees into the hive the day you receive them, it's okay. If you believe the can that contains the sugar solution is empty- just mix up a batch yourself (1:1 ratio of water to sugar) and spray or drizzle the sides lightly to feed them, keeping them in a shady area. Generally, I wait until late afternoon on a calm, relatively warm, sunny day. If there is a chance of cold weather, rain, frost, or a hot date, and you can't install them, it's a good idea to move them inside to a warm spot (I've been known to leave them on the kitchen counter before) until they can be hived. First, pry up the sugar can (using a screwdriver, knife, etc.). Sometimes the can will be nailed down (by a slat of wood) or the can will just be loosely insterted in. You should see a little piece of metal strapping a couple of inches long. That's attached to the queen cage. Some people give the box a quick jolt to knock them down to the bottom of the box (I don't do this- figuring they've been through a lot already in making here and see no point in getting them upset) before removing the can. Working with bee gloves makes it tough doing this proceedure. I use a pair of hemostats to clamp onto the queen's cage metal strap so it doesn't drop to the bottom of the box and into all those bees. A pair of needle nose pliers will work too. Slowly and gently lift up the can (while holding onto the hemostats/pliers), remove the queen cage, then allow the can to return to it's original position (so you don't have bees flying all over the place). The queen cage will have a hole in one end (opposite of the metal strap) with a piece of cork or candy plug in it (or both). DO NOT REMOVE IT! This is a new queen to them and if you release her into the hive, there's a good chance they'll kill her. Once they become familiar with her pheremone/scent (after a few days to a week usually) they'll usually accept her as their queen. They'll release her by gnawing away at the cork or candy plug. If they haven't release her in a few days, it's okay to pry it out a little to give them some help. There are a couple of different techniques on getting your bees into the hive; However, I'll just talk about the method that works best for me. I start off with two deep hive bodies. The bottom one filled with frames/comb, the upper one empty. I then suspend the queen cage in the middle of the bottom deep hive body between the two middle frames (hooking the metal strap over the top of one of the frames. You don't have to worry about frame spacing at this point. Remove the syrup can and place the box of bees inside of the upper deep hive body on one side, and a pan of sugar water (filled with twigs and reeds) on the other- then close it up. No muss, no fuss. Some people use a hive entrance reducer, others I know staple screen on the front to keep the bees in for the night. I don't bother with either. Installing them in towards evening, they aren't going to go anywhere when it gets dark. While it can be tempting to open up the hive and take a peek or two out of curiosity the next day, I would suggest leaving them alone for a few of days to get aquainted with their new surroundings and new queen. In a few days, check the hive (using the smoker) for progress. You can remove the box the bees came in from the hive body and see if the queen has been released yet. If she has been released, use your frame spacing tool to align the frames... then close it up. If she hasn't been released... go ahead and loosen the plug a little. If the queen isn't out in a week, then it's okay to release her from the cage yourself. Next entry- Examining the coloney.

Some miscellaneous thoughts. I don't use a smoker during the introduction of the bees to the hive... just the spray bottle filled with a sugar solution (I still dress up like an Armadillo though). A little spritz keeps them busy- especially if they're hungry. If this is your first time with bees, it wouldn't hurt to fire it up and practice a little (and as an added sense of security/protection). Light puffs of smoke goes a long way.

Mite treatment strips/medicinal sugar patties/suppliments . Treatment for disease and mites is a reality for beekeepers. Your bees should have been certified disease free before shipping and it shouldn't be an issue at this time. I wait until the queen is laying, the bees are drawing out comb and gathering nectar and pollen before thinking about any treatments.

A little FYI- The 2012 Old Farmer's Almanac is out. Starting on page 72, it discusses the interest in beekeeping is surging. A lots of bits and pieces about pollen, honey, and general statistics, interesting reading.
 

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The reason I asked about space is that I live in a rural neighborhood with a 1/2 acre lot. The neighborhood is surrounded by farms and forest, and ponds less than two miles away (and swimming pools in every backyard. :eek:)

Can I keep bees in that scenario?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The reason I asked about space is that I live in a rural neighborhood with a 1/2 acre lot. The neighborhood is surrounded by farms and forest, and ponds less than two miles away (and swimming pools in every backyard. :eek:)

Can I keep bees in that scenario?
From a beekeeping standpoint, absolutely, you can keep bees in that enviroment. It appears you have plenty of resources around you. The only thing you're limited to- is the number of swarms you want to keep on the 1/2 acre lot. It's always my recommendation that beginners start off with one or two swarms and go from there. While it's convenient to have the hives on your lot, another option to consider is to locate them on a nearby farm. If you talk with the local farmers, you'll find they are generally very receptive to the idea of having bees on their property (for free- as in YOU not charging them to pollinate their crops). Eventually I'll get around to the money making facets of beekeeping- which can be rather profitable.

Thank you for bringing up another issue that I inadvertently neglected to address earlier- some of the legalities of beekeeping. Not being a lawyer, the only things I know are-each state has it's own rules, regulations (more like over-regulation in my location), and local ordinances. There are some locations where beekeeping is not permitted. There are food laws in some places if you plan on selling your honey. Here in Illinois for example, one is supposed to register their hives with the state. Bees are not allowed to go (be transported) across county lines without being inspected first. How the bees located near a county/state line know to stop and not cross over an imaginary line still amazes me. Locally, if one wants to sell their honey, the person processing it has to be health board certified (cost $100.00). So I guess this is where I have to throw in the BS line of "Be sure check your state and local laws". I'm really having to bite my lip hard here to prevent from going into a full blown rant.

This being a prepping site, I tend to believe most here know how to deal with the "legalities" of things without them being mentioned in detail.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Examining your hive(s) for the first time.

White coveralls on- check
Bee veil w/pith helmet on- check
Leg cuffs secured (banded) over boots- check
Smoker lit and smoldering- check
Hive tool in the pocket of the coveralls- check
Bee gloves on- check
Hemostats or pliers- check

A side note in regards to the smoker. I just use wood (mostly pine) shavings that I get from using the wood planer in the shop. Pine tends to gum up the smoker with tar and creosote though. Some people use pine needles, others use animal bedding material from a feed store. Dadant I believe sells wood pellets. Burlap is used also. There is even a hypothesis that cedar chips used in a smoker helps kills mites. Personally, I would try to stay away from materials that contains petroleum and/or potentially harmful chemicals- like coal and such. Firing up the smoker and keeping it going can be tricky. I just put a handful of shavings in the smoker and ignite them with a plumber's mapp gas torch whilst pumping the bellows. Once a decent fire is going I toss in another handful of shavings (extinguishing the flame)- while continuing pumping the bellows. The first time I used the smoker, I was so nervous that I had a blow torch effect going on (a blasting flame from the top instead of smoke) from pumping the bellows so much. Occasional pumping is needed to keep a decent smoke rate going or it may go out completely. You'll eventually develop a technique for lighting and keeping the smoker going that works best for you.

Try to pick a day that's somewhat warm (but not overly humid), sunny, and calm. When approaching the hive, do not walk straight up to the front, lean over and smoke the entrance. Approach from and work with the coloney from the sides or back of the hives. This is a good habit to get into because there will eventually be guard bees posted at the entrance to protect the hive. Before smoking, I look at the bees entering and exiting the hive. The more frequently the bess are coming and going means they're busy and occupied; Hence, in theory are less likely to be aggressive. Slowly lean over and give the enterance a few light puffs of smoke. Too heavy of smoking can do damage to the bees. I usually smoke until I hear the bees buzzing louder. This is their "alarm siren". After hearing the alarm, I wait about 10 seconds (allowing the smoke and alarm to travel up the hive). I give another puff or two of smoke to the enterance then pull out my hive tool and SLOWLY remove the top cover by gently prying up. Once the cover is slightly cracked, I apply a few puffs of smoke under it before removing it completely (just in case someone didn't smell the smoke or hear the fire alarm and to prevent the "unlocked bathroom door and someone walking in while your sitting on the toilet" effect. Move slowly yet deliberately and breath normally.

Another side note. Under the top cover, some people have an inner hive cover (usually with an oval slot in the middle). While I don't use them. this inner top cover serves a couple of useful purposes. Bees will seal every crack and crevice with propolis... including the top cover. Using the inner cover makes it easier to remove the top one. You still have to contend with the propolis when removing the inner cover. The slot is used to mount a "bee escape" for when you are going to harvest honey. You simply mount it under the super(s) of honey you plan on harvesting- the bees can go through it but only in one direction, down. This reduces the number of grumpy bees you have to contend with when harvesting. On very hot days, sometimes I'll crack open the top cover to allow the heat to escape. The inner hive cover prevents the coloney from being complely expose in the event the top cover falls off or it begins to rain.


If you installed your bees the way I do, the first thing to do is remove the shipping box. There may be a few bees still inside. Just set the box along side of the hive and they'll go back into the hive before nightfall. Next I clamp the hemostats or pliers onto the metal strap which is attached to the queen cage and remove it- to see if she's been released or not. If she's out, remove the cage. If she's not and it doesn't appear the workers are making any obvious progress removing the cork and or candy plug, pry it out a little but not completely and replace the cage between the frames. A little trick I've used in the past is to spritz a little sugar solution onto her cage to draw the workers to her. Wait a few days, then if she's not released by then, it's usually okay to release her inside the coloney yourself. Generally, I don't pull up any frames to inspect comb building progress at this time. A quick glance inside is enough to tell. If you want to pull up a frame or two out of curiousity, that's okay too with your hive tool. When replacing the frame back, do it slowly- as not to crush a bee or two under the ends of or adjoining frames. Crushed bees emit a scent that alert the coloney of a danger and they can become aggressive. Just a few puffs of smoke will help cover the scent. If you are feeding the bees a sugar solution inside the hive, check the level and top off if necessary. it's probably a good idea the scoot the container over a little in any direction- lest the bees have started to glue it down. The only thing left, put the top cover (and/or the inner cover) back on- slowly.

Bits and pieces.

In speaking about top covers (and the style of it) I generally recommended that a brick, rock, or something with weight be placed on top to prevent the wind blowing it off.

It's suggested to not have detectable levels perfume or colonge on when working with or around the bees. Scents like those tend to attract them to the places where they're applied.

Next entry- Hive inspection once the queen has been released
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
A week or so has now elapsed. Following the same proceedure as mentioned previously in regards to approaching, smoking, and removing the top cover of the hive, it's time to examine frames to see if the queen is laying and the workers are drawing out comb. If the weather is warm, you should see the bees entering and exiting from the entrance at a pretty good clip. When pulling frames... back up here for a moment. There is another tool (I rarely use) that's available too. I guess it's called a "frame puller". It operates like a smaller version of those old fashioned ice tongs used to tote blocks of ice to a home. You grasp onto the frame with it and pull up the frame, it's supposed to make frame exraction and examining the frames easier. I find using the hive tool works quicker- especially if the frame are all gummed up with propolis. Since I already have a frame of drawn out comb in the middle, that is the frame I want to inspect first. Slowly and carefully pry it up. Grasp onto the ends of the top bar with both hands and remove. (I apologize if this may appear patronizing in explaining this but I'm trying to explain this in detail and exactly how I do it). I hold the frame up about a foot or so from my veil and start looking for the queen to see if 1. She's alive and 2. If she's laying eggs or not. Finding her can be the beekeeper's version of "Where's Waldo" at times (that's why I suggest having her marked). A few hints on finding her. Obviously, look for the biggest/longest bee. There are attendants constantly moving around her in a circular pattern while the worker bees are just doing hive duty. I associate this with those optical puzzles that you have to unfocus your eyes to see it. You'll notice it standing out once you see it. It's most likely she'll be where the comb is drawn out, but no guarantees. Keep looking until you find her. I do promise she'll be in the last place you look. I'll look at her for a while to see if she's depositing her eggs in cells (no big deal if you don't see her doing it while you are looking at her). Next, I lower the frame close to the other ones in the hive and either use a "bee brush" (another tool I don't use often and have neglected to mention, ugggh) or smoker to GENTLY coax enough of bees onto them so I can see if there are any eggs, larva, or capped cells. A good laying pattern is one where the queen is working in a circular pattern working from the middle of the frame out. It's okay if she's not, she's going to lay eggs where she wants to regardless. SLOWLY, replace the frame CAREFULLY (making sure you don't accidently crush the queen- as I have accidently done before). Next I remove another frame that has a lot of worker activity and examine it the same way. This is to determine the progress of cell/comb production. As usual check the levels of the sugar solution in the pan and fill if needed.

If the queen has expired. Order a new one ASAP. Introduce her to the hive in the same manner as you did the first one- In her cage with the plug, suspended between frames. If you allow a coloney to go queen-less for any length of time the worker bees will take it upon themselves to start laying eggs. The result- a hive full of unproductive drones. The drones (males) sole purpose is to mate with a queen. They don't gather food nor do any of the work around the hive (you can save the jokes ladies *LOL*). The only catch in being a drone- they mate and their penis breaks off inside the queen and they die. If they don't mate by the time the coloney clusters (late fall), the worker bees boot them out of the hive and the drones either freeze or stave to death. So as the worker bees die off... the entire hive dies off.


If all is well in the hive, you can close it up.

Next entry- Mite control and diseases.
 

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Timing bees

Every 11 days sounds like the right time table. Thanks for that tip. It makes perfect sense.
Soda?? Never read anything like that before. I am very interested in the results.
I will try some old blankets and an outer layer being canvas. I will check on the wrapping weekly or after each storm to make sure it is serving it's purpose and that mice are not taking advantage.
 

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Great info, Beeorganic! :congrat: I guess for liability reasons, I should find a farmer who will let me place my hives on his or her property.

I've wanted to start beekeeping for years, and am only now in a place in which it might be possible! :2thumb:
 
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