Beekeeping, Anyone?

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tx_floods's picture
tx_floods
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Beekeeping, Anyone?

My mom is down to visit for the week, and I was showing her around my yard, and showing her my attempts at gardening. She liked the raised bed setup I built. Anyway, this whole conversation led to current events, the SHTF, etc. She reminded me that my Grandpa raised bees before he passed on. A little light bulb went off! Honeybees would be perfect!

A source of pollination, and a ready source of natural sweetener. This is one topic that's been missing from the Forums. Is there anyone out there with enough experience to start The Definitive Beekeeping Thread? I'm interested in learning more about beekeeping, and maybe implementing that strategy for my plans to thrive in the future.

Does one have to live in a rural setting with land to raise bees? Can I raise a small flock in my back yard? What about weather concerns? I live in the hot desert - Will they survive here? Thanks if anyone can tie on this topic.

Secretlee's picture
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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Sorry I cant help, but what a fantastic idea!

One more question for whomever answers the above post - would they survive in snowy weather as well? Hmmmm.... note to self. Google bee-keeping. ;-))

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Hi TX,

I've been learning about beekeeping over the last year and in January decided to take the plunge and order bees which I'm supposed to pick up this weekend.  I ordered bees for two hives which I'm setting up in a neighbors backyard (as my wife maybe allergic to bees).  They are great to have around if you are a gardener.  Bees pollinate most human food crops and for various reasons wild bees have been hit hard and their populations are down over the last few years.  The same things that have hit them also impact kept honey bees, so the job of the beekeeper is more involved than in past generations.  We have a good beekeeping club in my area and I recommend you find one or at the very least track down a local beekeeper to find out the specific challanges your part of the world throws at bees.  I live in New England in the US so don't know about desert issues with bees.  Snowy weather I do know about. In New England bees winter over in their hives and will go out to check things out on hot days.  Some beekeepers wrap their hives to provide insulation to keep the warmth in.  Some do not.  Many put the hives in protected areas with windbreaks and good winter sun (when available).  Bees like to live in a high spot so cities make excellent places to keep bees as there are many building tops and unused porches in which to place hives--bees travel 1 to 2 miles from the hive for pollen so you don't need the hives right in the garden.  Cities also plenty of gardeners growing flowers bees need.  There are many great internet sources for information, even Youtube has video of all the processes of beekeeping, your local bee supply center will also have information specific to your area, but finding a local beekeeper to mentor you is a great way to go.  All the beekeepers I've met seem very friendly to anyone interested in bees!  Honey can be a great sources of income too, once you've recovered you set up costs.

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Well, I plan on keeping bees, but in a rural setting in AK.

I know quite a few people in the UK who used to keep hives in their back yards. I'm not sure about local resrtictions in your area, there's a good chance that there's no specific restriction, but check it out first, local ordinances vary a lot, and all it needs is for someone to have complained about getting stung by someone's honey bee hive and there might be a local ordinance preventing it.

Bees do fine in a lot of weather conditions, you might need to be cautious about too much heat, or too much cold (my issue), David mentioned some things you can do, but bees also regulate the hive temperature, if its too hot they'll blow air into the hive to cool it, and if too cold they'll vibrate their wing muscles to warm it. This does use up some of their stores (Honey) so makes them less productive. However the Honey Bee has been used from the equator to the near poles (the Vikings used to keep them in Northern Sweden and Norway, for Mead).

David has some good points, about going to a local club, or using YouTube. Depending on where you are, you might also need to be careful, if there are africanized bees in your area. These can rob and kill your hives, or worse yet take them over, so if you're in one of these areas you need to know how to spot the difference.

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

We too started looking into bees.  We made a phone call to a local group and within a couple of days we were on the list to get a couple of hives.  It seems like there is a huge learning curve but they are fascinating creatures and we have both been amazed at their workings.  It wasn't cheap to get the things you need to start.  We are in Canada and so we don't have as many sources as you do in the U.S. and so shipping charges start to add to the cost.  There was also quite a bit of work in building extra boxes (supers) and the frames to go into them to capture their honey starting next month.  We were able to get full hives with new queens and also an extra brooder box that already had the honey comb in  so that will mean we will get honey this year as the bees won't have to make all the comb instead of honey.  They arrived on Sunday and we got to suit up and take a look and it felt good.  So for now we just let them do their thing for a couple of weeks and then we'll start working with them.  We have found the people in the club extremely helpful.  Everyone says that bees are addictive but people stop doing them because of the honey as it is alot of work.  Now we have to hit the books again to see what to do next.  I'm thinking this is another one of those things that will teach us to slow down and take our time.

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Here's a link with several posts on the subject:

 

http://www.grist.org/search/results/?q=beekeeping&x=26&y=11

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Top bar hives and non-honey producing bees

We've been  considering beekeeping as well and have been researching it a bit for the past year. We'll do it in a suburban backyard. I know beekeeping is practiced in desert Southern California, so I'm sure it can be done in Texas as well.

Two intriguing alternatives to a standard hive I've run across:

http://www2.gsu.edu/~biojdsx/main.htm

Top bar hives explained at the link above: "This website is devoted exclusively to collecting and distributing information about beekeeping with top-bar hives (tbh's). Tbh's offer many beekeepers an inexpensive but satisfying way of keeping bees that produces less (but better) honey and more beeswax."

I've heard they're easier to start with, less contact with bees and less chance of stings. We may go this route as the kids are nervous about having the bees in the yard.

 

The second type of bee is a mason bee -- it does not produce honey, it's solely for increasing the yields on your crops, which is an admirable enough goal to justify keeping them, I think, and these are much easier to husband than honey bees, from what I understand.

http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/92/92-3/Christopher_George.html

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Other/note109/note109.html

We've discovered a couple of folks in our circle of acquaintences who keep bees and we're going to help and observe them before we leap in.

 

fwiw,

sue

 

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

I wouldn't attempt to raise bees in an urban scenario. My uncle did this when I was a child and I was stung several times.

Imagine that happening today in our modern litigious society to one of your neighbor's kids. The risk outweighs the benefits, IMO.

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Mason bees are a good alternative to honey bees if all you really want is pollination. They have not been as affected by whatever weird anomaly is reducing the honey bee populations, nor are they as subject to invasion or interbreeding with africanized bees.

If you live in a warm climate, you need to keep your hives in the shade and near a water source. If you live in a cool climate, you need to keep your hives in the sunniest location you can that is still protected from the wind. In the winter, most bees can keep the hive warm in temperatures down to 0 on their own as long as you leave them enough honey to survive the winter (or feed them sugar syrup). If it gets much colder than that, it's best to insulate the hive (leaving enough ventilation and a hatch!) so the bees have an easier job of keeping themselves warm... you may still have to feed them syrup through the winter even if you don't harvest any of their honey.

If you want more honey than wax, it's best to get pre-formed beeswax frames for your box. These can get really expensive, but allow the bees to focus entirely on making honey rather than wax. You can get a few seasons out of these if you spin out the honey and keep your hive clean. Another alternative is to just get the hexagonal forms and let the bees make the combs on the start rings. If you're going to harvest comb honey to sell, this is the best method because it's uniform; but your bees have to split their efforts between wax and honey production. Sometimes the bees will eat and recycle their own wax, so keep that in mind, too. If you are just going to harvest comb honey for your own use and don't care if it's uniform and pretty, then you could probably just put in blank frames and let the bees make whatever "wild combs" they want and scrape/cut it all out at the end of the season... but this isn't very efficient. 

Whether you live in the city or a rural area, the most important thing to remember about honey bees is that they prefer a straight flight path. You should locate your boxes where the bees have at least 6 feet (more than 10 is better) of unobstructed flight path when they leave the hive and that the flight path doesn't put them directly on a collision course with your neighbor's childrens playhouse or a busy street. Also, a bee's range is roughly 2 miles, so you have to make sure that there is adequate nectar-bearing vegetation in that area to support the entire hive or they will die or swarm and move on. Bees also don't like lots of commotion - noise and vibration - so trying to keep bees in your yard next to a major freeway or train station or elementary school probably isn't a good idea!

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A Plea For The Bees- Please

As you may know, 1 in 3 honeybee colonies have perished nationwide,causing real concerns over the future of our natural food supply.

Here in Pennsylvania USA, the Penn State Master Gardeners and ice cream giant Haagen-Dazs have launched a campaign to get people in the state to consider the bees when planting their gardens. The idea is to set aside space next to our vegetables for native plants that provide food and safe haven for honeybees and other pollinators.

If these pollinators have a readily available source of pollen,water and nesting space then they won't have to fly far...putting more stress on these already endangered helpers.

Native plants that attract pollinators are the best. Local bees have evolved with them and are 4 times as likely to be attracted to them.

Here in PA such native attracters would include: sunflower,baby blue eyes,eastern purple cornflower, giant blue lobelia, clustered mountain mint, butterfly milkweed,meadow zizia, smooth blue aster, and scarlet beebalm.

So, if you're not ready to keep bees, you still have a way to insure that you have more bees around for pollination purposes!

Just plant some flowers!

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Re: A Plea For The Bees- Please
jerry_lee wrote:

So, if you're not ready to keep bees, you still have a way to insure that you have more bees around for pollination purposes!

Just plant some flowers!

And install a shallow non-chlorinated water feature with low flow rate. Even a simple bird bath that you clean regularly (without chemicals!) will attract bees and other wildlife. Besides bees, certain wasps, flies, moths, butterflies, bats, and birds (namely hummingbirds) are also pollinators, so whatever you can do to attract them to your garden is all goodness!

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Plickety -

We have two kinds of wisteria and three kinds of jasmine honeysuckle, and a whole gaggle of other flowery thingies in the backyard (thanks to Cat's super green thumb) and have no shortage of bumblebees, honeybees and butterflies.

Last year we had a family of hummingbirds set up shop up in the tangle of wisteria in the oak tree.  They would hover right up to the window boxes looking for food.  Pretty cool to watch.

Okay, not much utility in this post, just a story. 

 

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

DIAP - awesome example :)  We revived a Rose of Sharon in our yard and are now continually bombarded with flying critter traffic whenever we walk from the garage to the house... it's great!  The other day we heard this really loud warbling coming from the shrub, and realized it was a tiny hummingbird smaller than the blooms... wow, talk about good pipes! Our lilac bush was completely covered in butterflies on Sunday... pretty!

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Jerry -

You need to put the link up to "I Am The Beekeeper" - you'd get to the Top 3!!

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Aren't hummingbees about the most amazing creatures in all of creaturedom!!

As per Dogs' suggestion, I have added a link to my song, I Am The Beekeeper.

The song is a prayer of sorts for the bees.

If you listen, please be so kind as to vote for I Am The Beekeeper.

As of today it is #12 on the chart and will remain on the chart through Sunday, May 24. Mucho thank you!

http://www.indieheaven.com/fanfaves.php

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?
tx_floods wrote:

Does one have to live in a rural setting with land to raise bees? Can I raise a small flock in my back yard? What about weather concerns? I live in the hot desert - Will they survive here? Thanks if anyone can tie on this topic.

tx-floods,

A fellow CC grad just set up three hives on his property which is rural. I would not try it within small city lots. He fabricated a single steel base post (holds three hives) which has a "moat" filled with vegetable oil to keep ants away from the hives. They are placed in the sun but in proximityto trees so that in early morning and late afternoon they have shade. The winter sun angle allows more sun in than summertime.

He ordered his bees via mail and I will ask him the source and get it posted here for interested persons. He was also able to find all of the beekeeping equipment at a local garage sale. It included the smoker, centrifuge, body net and gloves and a couple of old books on the subject plus misc. comb frames and such.

We are trying to develop sources for all types of food within our "community".  Our projects underway include establishing a local source of milk (both goat and cow)  and we are also developing a local "kitchen" of sorts. This will provide for cold storage and freezer storage plus a butcher shop and a kitchen for canning and large volume food preparation. The facility will be stand alone IE off the grid and use solar and wood for energy. We are doing it in the old "barn raising" style to help build community.

Coop

 

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

How does one get started with bees?

I'd like to look into it.

Anyone from Australia (NSW) here that's given it a go and knows where to get all the gear and bees etc.

How much attention do they need? I've got a rural property that I visit about once a week, would bee keeping require more attention than that?

How far away from the house do you need to keep them to not get stung / what radius from their hives do they venture? 

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

I cannot answer your questions, as I know less than you do. However, since doing a little research, here's what I DO know: Here in the USA, each county has a county extension agent; An agricultural agent, if you will, who is there to answer questions related to all things like gardens, bees, etc. Maybe in Australia, they have something similar.

Further, there are beekeepers clubs/associations all over the world. (Presumably all over the world; The truth is, I was looking for one in my area, not Australia :-) I suspect if you google up "beekeepers" for your area, I'll bet you can find someone locally.

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone? WINTER READY ?

  I FOUND THAT MY BEES HAVE MADE TWO BOXES OF HONEY .  WHICH  I  BELIEVE IS ENOUGH TO FEED THEMSELVES THROUGH THE WINTER .   I HOPE THEY FILL THE TWO SMALLER  SUPERS NEXT SEASON ..      WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO GET THEM READY FOR WINTER .     POWERED SUGAR FOR MITE?  APSTASIAN STRIPS? 

  TIME FOR ME TO GET  MANY THINGS READY .

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

I cannot help Full Moon as I'm also a newbie and this'll be my first winter as a beekeeper. But responding to some earlier posts about Africanized bees: just about all the swarms we capture here (Southern Cal.) are africanized. What we do to calm them is to find the queen and replace her with a purchased European queen. Within a matter of weeks as the new brood hatches, there should be a noticeable difference in bee behavior (i.e. not attacking your face when you are inspecting them.)

Shireen

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone? fall prep

http://naturesnectar.blogspot.com/2009/09/getting-hive-ready-for-winter.html    I found this site made things pretty simple .  

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Just took our honey off of the hive today.  We have talked about putting hives on a roof deck (but we don't have a deck yet) to protect them from bears.  Although we haven't had any problems here yet (central MA) some people east of us have.  

According to this article  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_19155.cfm  , bees are thriving on rooftops in Paris.  Sounds like a great idea.

(I don't know how to do a proper link.  Feel free to tell me so my posts are more helpful.)

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

bee keeping is indeed a great idea! you can visit the link for more information. hope it helps!

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

 Keith , somehow I missed your  comments . I was just trying to find the site again to get ready for winter .  Our bees are agressive  this fall . There are so many  that We have got to get geared up and get the hive ready . 

  Any helpful hints ?

FM

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?
Full Moon wrote:

 Keith , somehow I missed your  comments . I was just trying to find the site again to get ready for winter .  Our bees are agressive  this fall . There are so many  that We have got to get geared up and get the hive ready . 

  Any helpful hints ?

FM

Full Moon do you think you have africanized bees? I've heard they don't tend to go where it's colder so I would hope not. We do get them here and what we have to do is requeen. The hive should take on the personality of the new queen. Of course this entails finding the current queen to get rid of her, and if the hive is very large and very aggressive, that can be difficult. 

 

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

 I don't think so but  I am new to this .     This bee hive has been so busy all year .    Hungry all the time .   Every watermellon rind , glass of lemonade left outside , even the humming bird feeders were eaten at .    I am in real hope that we have 2 supper of honey for us and two to leave for them over the winter .   Earlier before I put the two for us on top I saw so much brood in the lower boxes .   Tomorrow  I will get brave and go for it .

  FM .

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

 We got into the hive . There is much brood many many bees but I fear not enough honey for them to last the winter .  I put two more sugar water jars for them to have .   They were all over it  and had it gone in four days .   Who can tell me how much more do I feed them ?  I do not fine this info on the net .

 

 FM

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Re: How much to feed them - we put one jar per bee colony of sugar water with 1:1 sugar to water in fall and spring and 2:1 sugar to water in winter and we just refill it when they have emptied it out.

We had to start feeding early this year because we were too slow to take the advice to put up an electric fence to keep the bears out. Our hive got wrecked and half the honey is G-O-N-E from over a year of hard work by those little busy bees. So, if you have bears, you need a cattle size electric fence for your bees. Here is what else we did... And how the electric fence saved the bees... The bear didn't like it very much but now he is back to pillaging fruit trees instead...

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQO8n7C-8-I


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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

aufrance ,

     That is some expensive honey !    Will you now be extending your fence around the fruit trees as well ?  

  

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maaa
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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

Dear Full Moon,

Ha! I have to admit I chuckled to myself when I thought about how ridiculous it would be to put an electric fence around the the little apple tree that will now have to limp along and try to keep growing.

But, the cost of the Home Security System for our bees was not too great.  The electric controller and fence are about $110, and that is all a bee keeper really needs for bear deterrent. The other things are for people who like to go overboard like we always do.

We had most of the stuff around here anyway, and just had to go out to the hardware store for the electric fence: the controller, stakes, wire including chickenwire "moat" or you might say perimiter carpet, to make sure of a good ground in our sandy dry soil.

The TrendNet we already had since we sell those and they are actually easy and fun to setup - but now oops - you are right that adds to the price since we sell those for $174. And the motion detector and security light on the stake were sitting in the garage for about 10 years waiting to be used. So you can leave those things out.

One thing about bee keeping - you really get a feeling of sympathy for how much time and effort it takes to make any progress in the hive!

But, I think what drove us to do all this was seeing the bear out there (this is a big one) and it just would not go away with banging and clanging of pans, like it should have. So we perhaps we have also saved it from the game warden's shotgun. So it's Save the Bees! Save the Bears! Save on Ammo!

Have a happy day!!!

Mary Kay

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Re: Beekeeping, Anyone?

 Mary Kay ... 

  LOVE IT !       I am going to go for one too ...  We already have the set up for the horses ,cows ,and such .   Will hide it in the Grapevines I have growing around the perimeter of the place .   It might  Keep the grandbabies in and the boogie man out .  Now if I could keep our  bordercollie from harrasing the geese .... taking it for a long walk is not going over too well with the kids .  Got any Ideas there ?  

  getting our hive ready for winter .   For some reason we found three queen cells in the hive .   I think they multiplied so much and moved out ... Could not be they beheaded the queen .

FM .

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