• Beekeeper John

    About the writer: John Kirk is an avid gamer, a writer, a student, and apparently likes writing in third person.

    I’m 22 summers old and a student at Rowan University, studying journalism. I’m from “South Jersey” for those who understand, New Jersey to those that don’t....Read more on the About Page....

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Becoming a Backyard Beekeeper: Part 3

Whew! Busy week/weekend folks. Here is the much-anticipated third part to the becoming a backyard beekeeper series!

Thus far we have discussed how to gain knowledge about beekeeping, where to put our hives, and how a network of support could help keep us on the right beekeeping path in part one of the series, and in part two we saw some of the hives there were to choose from.

In this part of the series I’ll be talking about the all important part of actually getting the honeybees!

Having bees to put in a hive would help, now wouldn’t it?

Obtaining and Installing Your Bees

Hiving your first colony of honeybees is an important part of becoming a beekeeper. Like any an expecting parent (except you have about  11,000 “children”coming) it is OK to be a bit apprehensive. You will only need to hive a colony into a particular hive once since bees are perennial and will live in the hive you provide for them for generation from generation. The exception to this, of course is if the colony dies from disease or starvation.

Obtaining the bees

First things first is to determine what race or honeybee you want. There are four major strains of bees and four hybrid races, each with their own pros and cons and different looks as well. However, I only  outlined five races that are the most prevalent for beekeepers to buy and those most likely to be encountered. They have their own page here. It is essential that you know which race of honeybee will best suit your style, local environment, and level of beekeeping mastery.

Hallo there!

To mail or not to mail

Now that you have had a chance to check out the types of honeybees that are desirable and available, it’s time to choose how to obtain those bees.

There are two ways you can go about buying honeybees: buying them from a commercial supplier, usually from across the country, or find a small deal/supplier around your area (theres usually more beekeepers out there then you know) and buy a Nuc off of them.

A disadvantage to buying bees from a commercial supplier across the country is that the bees need to be shipped across the country in the mail. Believe me the local post office will not like a 3 pound box of buzzing, stressed out bees.

This is why i suggest trying to find a local beekeeper supplier and inquire about their sales of a nuc.

Buying a “Nuc” and installing your girls

Nucleus with a robbing screen on it

Some of you may be asking yourself what a “nuc” is. A nuc, or nucleus is a small wooden or cardboard hive that houses about 3-5 frames of brood and bees, as well as a young queen. All you do to hive in the nuc method is just move the frames of bees and brood into their larger, more permanent home. It’s just that simple. If you use the nuc method of hiving your bees it is a lot less stressful on the bees themselves and is easier than the mail method. Which requires you to shake the box of bees into their new home, all after they have been in the mail for an unspecified amount of time. Personally I bought a nucleus and went to a bee farm to pick it up and they actually switched the frames out for me. I sealed up the exits to my hive and drove the whole thing home. Just like that, nice and easy. When you first install the new colony, you want to leave them alone for about two weeks. Don’t open the hive move the hive bodies around or anything. You could even shove some grass in the entrance to reduce the chance of them coming out prematurely.

I bought my bees from Harvey’s Honey. They have a huge farm in Monroeville, NJ where they sell everything from raw, locally harvested honey, Italian queens, nuc’s, and hive supplies. They are good people and run an honest business, not to mention if you’re almost anywhere in New Jersey and looking for a nuc, then this is the only place to get them!

Here is their phone number (856) 358-1010. And this is their e-mail harvhoney@aol.com.

Well thats it for this edition of “Becoming a Backyard Beekeeper”!

And just a littler reminder, this isn’t an exhaustive list of everything there is to hiving honeybees. Just the methods I know, and have used. As with anything, there is much knowledge to be gained in the pursuit of a hobby or past time. Which is why I always like to stress the importance of taking beekeeping courses from master beekeepers usually at universities and other places of higher knowledge.

So farewell! And keep your ears to the ground for the next post in this series!

Becoming a Backyard Beekeeper: Part 2

 

Back again is my running series on how to become a backyard beekeeper! How about a refresher on what I covered last time?

Dad Holding Bees

My dad holds a beautiful frame from the upper deep

Part one was about finding a location for your hive, reading and researching everything you can find that has to do with becoming a beekeeper, and beekeeping resources such as websites and your local beekeeping association.

Now to begin part two….

Part 2: Choosing Your Hive.

Now that have done your research on honeybees and found a great spot to place your hive, the time to order a home for your future bees has come. When it comes to types of hives there are a few and depending where you live and how you’ll be doing your beekeeping. Although there are many differing styles and preferences among the worlds beekeepers, I will only be referencing the two that I feel are the most practical.

Types of hives:

  • Langstroth hive– The standard for 75% of the worlds beekeepers, the Langstroth hive is probably the most recognized of all movable frame hives. It consists of standardized sizes of hive bodies (rectangular boxes without tops or bottoms placed one on top of another) and frames in order to yield a large place for bees to live and draw out comb for brood production and pollen and honey storage.

Hive Placement

My hive is a Langstroth hive

Pros:

-Yields great deal of honey.

-Vertical stacking of boxes means small foot print

-Can be used anywhere the beekeeper wishes, i.e., small gardens, big backyards, rooftops, etc…

Cons:

-Heavy lifting when hive bodies are full of brood, bees, and honey

-Bees have to use ready-made wax foundation put in by the beekeeper that could be contaminated, thus contaminating the honey and wax crop

-The killing of some bees is inevitable when replacing frames, hive bodies, and the inner and outer covers.

  • Top-bar hive- The top-bar hive or Kenya hive is a hive designed more with the bees in mind. It uses a series of wooden bars set parallel to each other over top of a trapezoid-like, sloped-sided hive box. The top-bar hive is not a vertical one as the Langstroth is, in fact it’s the total opposite in the sense that it spreads out horizontally. Its intended focus is for more use in providing a cheap means of beekeeping where resources might be scarce, such as developing countries. However, it is gaining a following in industrialized countries as a means of providing the honey bee’s an all organic place to live and make honey.

Video provided by ecoversity, features the inspection of a top-bar hive.

Pros:

-Yields a lot more wax than the Langstroth hive

-Is a hybrid hive providing natural comb production but also manipulation of frames for gathering of a honey crop

-No heavy movable hive bodies, complex parts, or steps to hive expansion

-Ease of inspection excites beginner beekeeper, and disturbs bees far less than that of a Langstroth hive

Cons:

-Only two methods of honey extraction: Crush comb, in which the totality of the comb with the honey on it is cut off the bar and crushed and sieved through a strainer to get the majority of the honey out, and Cut Comb, where the whole comb is cut off and eaten as such

-Not thought to be ideal for climates with harsh winters seeing as the bottom of the hive is often only covered with a screen and not a full bottom board.

-Significantly less honey production than a Langstroth hive

-Takes up more room that the vertical Langstroth hive

Whichever hive you deicde to choose just keep in mind that there are others, however they are all mostly similar to the look and construction of the Langstroth hive, just differing in size, bee space, and number of frames.

Also keep in mind which hive best suit’s your needs and space arrangement.

I happened to order my hive from the folks at Better Bee. Although, that was before I found all the different sites selling all different kind of hives. Such as Rossman Apiaries who sell a cypress hive that is said to last long and hold paint better than the traditional eastern pine hives. I’m definitely looking at those for my next hive.

Well, thats all the posting I have for tonight, spread the word of backyard beekeeping and stay on the look out for another post soon!

Becoming a Backyard Beekeeper: Part 1

Foreword

Just in case you didn’t read the post before this one, I explained that over the next week or so I would be going through certain steps that need to be taken in order to put you on your way to becoming a backyard beekeeper.

I will go over the things that I did, and give bits of advice that I believe will help make the journey easier.

So without further hesitation:

Part 1: Finding a location, honeybee research, and beekeeping resources

  • Location, Location, Location

Check it out

The hives summer position

 

As you can see, the place I choose for my hive during summer provided three key things that the honeybees needed in a hive location. However, there are always more things to consider when finding a place for your hives, such as proximity to pollen and nectar sources , neighborhood restrictions, and neighbors themselves. I choose these three because I felt that they are basic and a most important factor for the hives summer survival.

 

  • Partial shade– The hive shouldn’t really have full on sun during the hot spring and summer months. This is because the hive needs to be kept at a constant 91-93 degrees for the brood to continue to develop healthily . Shade in the hight of summer makes it easier for the girls to keep the internal hive temperature in the low 90’s.
  • Wind Break- A wind break covering the back side of the hive helps the bees in that it provides a low wind zone around the hive so honeybees that are coming and going from the hive don’t get blow away. Referencing to the above picture again, the large pine tree and wooden fence ensure that no rogue winds will whip through the flying zone. Also, a wind break is needed for wintering your hive, the bees will fill all gaps they find with a thick coat of propolis (sometimes called bee glue) but they still need something on the outside to help them out.

  • Water Source– Finally, the girls need a source of water for the production of honey and the cooling of the hive. The bees will drink from almost anything really, in fact I once saw them on an old rug that was outside after a rain storm drinking. Not seen in the above picture is a small pond in the front of my house, a “bee bath” sort of like a bird bath but smaller with rocks in it so the girls have some where to stand, and a low lands area down the street from my house that I’m sure they used.
  • Honeybee Research

As with anything, researching the topic you’re interested in helps the actual process go a lot smoother than if you hadn’t researched at all. When I decided early last spring that I wanted to become a beekeeper the first thing I did the next weekend I was home from Rowan was to go to my local Borders bookstore and found the most helpful literature I could on the subject of beekeeping. It happened to be a Beekeeping for Dummies book written by the proprietor of Bee-Commerce.

This book was my Bible for the next few months, and it still is whenever I happen to get in a bind. Pretty much everything I know or learned about honeybees and beekeeping came from my time reading and rereading that book.

Opening up the treasure chest

A nearly empty honey super

I personally know that it’s easier for me to do almost anything when I have support from a group of friends or peers. The same goes for good beekeeping, and long term beekeeping.

Getting involved with the local beekeeping club/association will give you access to much more knowledge and conventional beekeeping wisdom than any beekeeping book could give you. You’ll be around beekeepers in all different stages of the hobby. Some might be novice beekeepers like myself, and others could be the hive inspectors for your state or local area.

Even now on the Internet and the Blogosphere (ugh I hate buzz words) there are literally a thousand points of interest when it comes to beekeeping and those who like to write about its inner workings.

I joined the local beekeeping association and though I have yet to go to an open function, I receive a newsletter contained beekeeping news for my area, and the world as a whole, as well as helpful advice from master beekeepers.

So that makes up my first section of becoming a backyard beekeeper. Any questions will be answered promptly, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll be posting the other parts shortly